David Allen, king of the Getting Things Done movement said this:
“What you’ll tend to avoid doing is probably the most important thing you need to do, because it’ll probably be the most daunting and the most potentially successful thing you could be doing.”
So, my question to you is: “What are you avoiding?”
Writing therapy is an actual ‘thing’. It’s not just for us nerdy wordy souls yearning for an outlet for our unsatiated brilliance. It’s actually a form of expressive therapy that uses the act of writing, and then the processing of that writing, as a way to heal. The premise behind writing therapy is that by writing one’s feelings down, emotional trauma will gradually ease.
Whilst I’ve never formally undertaken ‘writing therapy’ as such, I certainly know that I get great satisfaction from scribbling down thoughts when I’m in a muddle about something. It helps to clear my head and offer the best answer when I see all the ideas in black and white in front of me. I also remember as a teenager how wonderfully satisfying it was to express my inner most desires and angst in my secret diary, and how I always felt a little closer to the ‘truth’ or ‘real me’ as a result. So I guess that was my own form of writing therapy; nurturing my emotional health through words.
Book writing is a big deal. It’s no simple undertaking. The first question I get asked when someone is considering using my help for their book writing project is ‘how many words should my book contain?’
My answer is always: ‘How long is a piece of string…?’
No, really…how long is it?
I know that doesn’t help you AT ALL, and sounds like the kind of smartypants answer that would have gotten me in trouble at the dinner table, but it’s true. Your book needs to contain as many words as it takes to cover off your topic properly, without repetition and without gaping holes in the knowledge.
I get asked the ‘how many words’ question almost immediately people engage with me about writing their book. And it’s normal to wonder. I get it. Because a book writing project is a big thing. There are a LOT more words in a book than in anything else you’ve probably ever written (unless you were one of those crazy smart people who sat down and wrote a PhD.!) And the prospect of writing a whole heap of words can be daunting. It’s time-consuming, you’re wondering whether you actually know ‘enough’ and you’re hoping like heck that I’m not going to charge you for editing ‘by the word count’!
It’s just as frustrating for me as it is for you that there is no perfect answer to this million dollar book writing question.
So, will you settle for some guidelines for your book writing word length?
At an event I spoke at recently, a question was asked of me: “Does content matter?”
Hells yeah it matters! With a caveat…
Content for content’s sake is garbage and a waste of time. Content that is purely self-serving and sales-oriented is also icky. But content that adds value, educates, enlightens, inspires, motivates, challenges, raises awareness, absolutely fricken matters. And that’s what we should all be aiming to create. Content with an impact.
I believe that business ownership is a creative endeavour. But sometimes it can feel more like a task factory, more like a ‘job’ (you know, like the one you ran away from??), than a creative outlet.
And the problem is it kind of gets worse as you get better and more experienced at what you do, which feels counter-intuitive but it’s often very true. As you become a business-building machine, it’s easy to lose touch with your passion, your vision, your BIG WHY, and it’s possible to even lose that genuine connection with the people you love to serve.
What a tragedy!
But it’s all too real for many business owners, especially as they grow from being a solo-entrepreneur or micro-business to one that is consistently driving profit and also supports others, not just the business owner. The kicker is that your passion and creativity and the way that you express that is what really draws prospective clients in. It’s what people loved about you in the first place. Heck, it’s what you loved about you too! And if you lose touch with it, then your prospects and fans do as well.
That passion and creativity is why you set up shop to begin with, right? (You didn’t do it because you thought it would be easier than having a job, did you??) So it’s time to reclaim your calling and your creativity.
Attend a creativity retreat.
It’s SO important to get away from your endless To-Do list, your everyday activities, and reconnect to your creative energy. Giving time and space to you creativity, and actively working on the projects and ideas, will move you toward the future. It’s the juice that fuels your vision.
Don’t consider this a luxury. It’s a necessary practice for entrepreneurs and leaders. Seriously.
So I urge you to either find the time and place to have your own, personal creativity retreat, or better yet, come to mine!
There are some biz babes and bros I know who literally check themselves into a hotel room, turn off their phone, and stay there for a couple of days. Writing, filming, creating. Or the really lucky ones jump on a plane and go somewhere exotic, away from everything they know. This is awesome if you are highly self-motivated, not easily distracted and have the time to research what’s going to work.
With a group or guided experience however, you get the benefit of structure, expertise on hand, peer support, and collaborative energy. Being around other people on a similar mission often makes it easier to get into the creative flow. (Being given a gentle nudge by a coach when you get stuck also helps!)
Regardless of what way you choose to go, your creativity retreat should include these components:
Remove yourself from all distractions – clients, employees, kids, housework, day-to-day activities. Creativity and writing require a high level of focus that is often impossible in our normal environment.
Go somewhere different, away from what is ‘normal’. It doesn’t have to be the other side of the world, unless you have the means and the inclination of course. A mountain or coastal retreat works well because of the natural inspiration the surroundings offer.
Separation also means technological separation. Where possible, don’t be calling in to the office or home to see how things are without you; and ask ‘your team’ to respect the same boundaries. Being far away isn’t useful if you keep being interrupted by phone calls, texts, updates, etc.
Creating physical space away from your norm will allow the creativity to flow more easily.
Your retreat should incorporate things that support your creative side – and everyone is a little different on this front. Some people need the beach, others may need an adrenalin fuelled activity, still others might love the funky vibe of an urban neighbourhood.
Moving your body definitely helps to improve focus and creativity, so ensure your retreat includes regular breaks for yoga, stretching, walks, swims, dancing.
Other inspirational activities may be listening to mantras or music, trying something new, colouring in, listening to an inspirational speaker, cooking in a new style.
Habits and patterns are hard to break. Unwinding from your normal routine takes time. Don’t expect you can go away for an afternoon and slip into super-creativity-retreat-mode. To really gain the full benefit of an intense creative time, you need sufficient time. I recommend a minimum of 36 hours, but take 2 or 3 days if you can.
Before you go on your creativity retreat, set some specific outcomes, but be sure to have a flexible mindset that allows room for new ideas as well. My retreat participants spend up to two hours with me planning what they want to achieve and why. This is then condensed into a formal Retreat Plan that they pledge to follow by signing it on night one of the retreat – accountability always works best!
If you don’t have a plan, and are simply interested in ‘going with the flow’, you may find yourself floundering. Time is precious – don’t go wasting it.
Setting yourself a goal to complete X amount of blogs, or write your book outline, or create 6 months worth of Facebook posts, means you will come out the other end of retreat having accomplished something! You will have a body or work that can make a real difference to your business and carry the retreat experience forward.
Do you need to get out of your rut and shake things up?
Do you get nervous whenever you have to send something out, worrying that it won’t be exactly right?
Do you cringe every time you’re about to press publish on Facebook?
Do you muck around with your sales pages, your marketing materials, your emails to the point of spinning in circles? Or even worse, to the point of not sending them out at all?
It’s time for a perfection intervention!
You know that there is no such thing as perfection when it comes to creating content for your business, right? It is simply impossible to get to this mythical point called ‘perfection’ because the truth is that you can continue to make changes and improvements for ever! Creative work will never be perfect, but at a certain point, you must just decide that it is done.
An old CEO of mine once said: “Don’t let perfection get in the way of progress.” I didn’t realise how true that was until I started my own business. You see, it’s always easier to let go of the content when it’s not your baby that it relates to. Not that I was ever sloppy or slapdash with my content previously, but when I was writing for other brands, the attachment simply wasn’t as high as it is with my own; it was easier to let it go at ‘really good’ versus ‘outstanding’.
It’s perfectly normal and understandable for any business owner who has vested endless energy and effort into getting every little detail of their business just right, to want to get every single word perfect. What I’m going to suggest however, is that you may need to lower your standards a bit. Now, I’m not saying to put out low-quality content by any means, but if your standards are so high that you never actually reach them, you are in fact inhibiting your own growth. How will anyone get to know, like and trust you if they never hear from you? How will prospects understand where you position your services if you don’t talk about them? It is important to strike a balance and have standards that are achievable.
Perfection paralysis is a real thing. But it’s not a good thing if you want your business to expand.
Here are 4 considerations that may help you to embrace imperfection.
Just start creating
Author, Brene Brown, summed up this irony beautifully in her book Daring Greatly: “Perfectionism crushes creativity – which is why one of the most effective ways to start recovering from perfectionism is to start creating.” Perfectionism can cause us to stop creating before we even get started simply due to fear that we won’t live up to our own standards. Ridiculous but true! And the more we do this, the more it continues to occur. The reality is that self expression and creativity are inherently messy and imperfect.
Take the example of painting. In our culture, most adults refuse to pick up a brush and paint a picture because they think they can’t create something worthwhile. Head to any kindergarten or preschool however, and the room will be filled with enthusiastic painters, all creating their own masterpieces freely and excitedly. They have not yet learnt the meaning of perfectionism. Their messy, imperfect paintings are beautiful!
Conversation and connection
Building relationships with people is the primary purpose of business content, therefore, when creating content it may help to think about it like a conversation. When you talk to someone you don’t plan every word you are going to say ahead of time. You may hesitate or struggle for words but that doesn’t reduce your ability to connect with that person. In fact, showing some ‘humanness’ and imperfection often makes you more relatable. Remember the old saying ‘nobody is perfect’? Well it’s true! So stop trying to be. If you’re aiming to provide a flawless image in your business comms you may actually be doing damage to your brand. Why? Because you raise questions and concerns amongst your readers about the possibility of perfection. You alienate them by making them feel less than worthy, which is the opposite of what you want to do with your content.
Consider the stats
Short-term content pieces, such as emails and blogs, unfortunately don’t get read all the way through by up to 70% of viewers. Sad but true! Most readers skim read these pieces of content. So, as far as perfection goes, it may help to realise that your audience is NOT nit-picking your content nearly as much as you are!
Everything is a test
As business owners we should always be trying and testing and measuring new things. As entrepreneurs and innovators – that’s what we do! Inevitably, it won’t all land perfectly. Viewing this as ‘failure’ however, is not useful to anyone. Rather think of it as R&D – research and development. The more you try things out, the more information you uncover, which helps you to do it better or differently next time. And since nothing is ever perfect, everything is a test!
Stop aiming for perfection, and start seeking out the beautifully imperfect. It is there that you learn and grow.
Let me know if you struggle with perfection….I can help.