If you produce content for a living, you know it can feel kind of like doing laundry. No matter how great you are at doing laundry, there will always be more, sometimes by the time you fold the load you just did. It’s a never-ending task. In today’s online landscape, content ages quickly and your popularity changes at the speed of search engines. And, it’s not enough to just write anything. You want creative content that tells a story… that grabs attention. Creative writing is no longer solely the domain of novelists and poets. If you tell stories–even if you tell them visually–you need to harness your creativity. Try these creative writing techniques to enliven your blogging.
The Hero’s Journey
Take your reader on a journey, and give it a protagonist. That doesn’t mean that you have to write a case study or invent a fictional character. In this blog post, for example, the protagonist is YOU. You’ve begun with a problem, or at least a question, about how to write more creatively. As you think about the following tips, consider how you will apply them to your own projects. That’s the start of your journey.
If you are unfamiliar with the concept of The Hero’s Journey, coined by Joseph Campbell in 1949, it’s essentially a template for every story in human history. It gets highly detailed, so read more about it later if it interests you. For now, know that your reader needs someone to empathize with, and that person may be themselves. The reader follows this protagonist through obstacles to a resolution. Creative writing is built on The Hero’s Journey.
“The course of true love never did run smooth.”
William Shakespeare advised that love stories, like all stories, include bumps in the road; a good story needs conflict. Let’s say you’re telling the story of a satisfied customer who used your product or service. Customer buys service; customer is happy. That’s not much of a story. Tell your reader what the customer’s initial problem was, which led them to seek out your company. In fiction writing, you might call this event the inciting incident.
Now, the has customer found you. Great! Point out any conflict along the way. Did they first have a bad experience with a competitor? Were they initially skeptical about your product, but you overcame their skepticism? Did your company make a mistake with this customer… which you, of course, remedied speedily and with a smile, thus making a friend for life? Humans like stories of people overcoming obstacles, so don’t shy away from discussing mistakes.
“Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice.”
Again, we turn to Shakespeare for sage advice. Good writing flows from listening…and reading…and generally absorbing all that you can. Expanding your horizons makes you a better writer. It not only provides you with more story ideas, but increases your vocabulary and your capacity for critical thinking.
Perhaps you just read an interesting article about something unrelated to your business–paleontologists found a dinosaur tail preserved in amber. Let that news item spark ideas about important discoveries your own company has made. Turn those ideas into a blog post.
Listening also proves critical in relating to customers. An adage of writing is “know your audience,” so… know your audience. Ask them questions about their needs and interests. Read what they’re talking about on social media. When you’re struggling to think of a topic for a new blog post, find out what potential readers might want to read about and pursue that.
“Brevity is the soul of wit.”
Polonius from “Hamlet” spoke these words, just before getting to his point: Hamlet had gone mad. So, too should you get to the point in your creative writing. Brevity does not necessarily mean writing short posts. In fact, longer ones tend to attract more readers and perform well in search. Just don’t take 25 words to express what you could in 10. Strip away redundant words and phrases. In particular, beware superfluous adverbs. (The word “very” is almost always unnecessary.) You will make your point more strongly. Also, your post will be easier to read.
Use Metaphors and Analogies
Shakespeare may have been the master of metaphor, but in modern social media we have another way to illustrate our points: visuals. If you want to help the reader envision your product, you might find a poetic way to describe it. Compare it to a summer’s day. But, if words can’t quite capture your meaning, use visuals. Photos, illustrations, and infographics inform. They can also entertain and spark emotion. Let’s say your company’s reusable water bottles keep 10,000 plastic bottles per day out of landfills. Show a photo of an Olympic-sized swimming pool filled with those 10,000 bottles to visually convey that impact. (Disclaimer: This writer has no earthly idea how many plastic water bottles would fit in a swimming pool. This is just an example.)
…But Beware Cliches
Saying that something is on your bucket list, talking about better mousetraps, or adding -palooza to the end of a word may seem clever at first. But find a fresher way to make your point. Exercise your creativity and develop an original phrase. Your writing will carry more impact, and your language will be more precise. Cutting cliches also helps with that whole brevity thing.
You don’t have to be Shakespeare to excel at creative writing. People have been telling stories throughout human history, and as a blogger, you’re a storyteller. Practice these techniques and you’ll develop your own as well. You will attract and keep more readers and accurately convey your message.
PHOTO: CC0 / Public Domain