November & December theme:
“Choose One Thing”
Posted in :  Diversions

Sounding human never felt so right.

Google’s recent algorithm update has, for the foreseeable future, given well written, relevant content a preferred seat at the audience engagement table. The way Copyblogger describes it, Hummingbird is Google’s first step toward providing search results based on conversational rather than keyword-based searches. So sources of information that address specific needs and sound like a human wrote them for another human to read, a sweet spot for well-written blogs, are going to rise to the top of search results.

This is great news because now your knowledge, shared in your voice, has an even better chance to impact your readers and your business goals.

The middle is no place to start.

But let’s face it; blogging for your business isn’t easy. You have to regularly produce work that makes an impact on your readers. You want to write with enough efficiency that blogging doesn’t cost your business more than it’s worth. You want to be proud of what appears under your name.

There are probably just as many methods for dealing with these pressures as there are people trying to write for a company blog. My approach is avoidance. I turn every post into a creative writing assignment and allow the writing process to take me where it will. I mess around with the internal organs and don’t look too closely at the skeleton. And while this “I’ll know it when I write it” method can be interesting and even exciting, if I stick with it I know I’ll never be able to reliably and efficiently create valuable content.

But I know I need to, so I’ve been looking for ideas that might help. One came from an unexpected place.

Verse, chorus, repeat.

I’ve been reading the book, Writing Better Lyrics: The Essential Guide to Powerful Songwriting, by Pat Pattison, a professor at Berklee College of Music. In the chapter, Productive Repetition, Pattison lays out a simple idea for visualizing a song lyric where the verses are represented as a stack of boxes that get progressively larger and heavier. The top, smallest box introduces the world of the song. The middle box continues the idea from another angle, combining the weight of the first box with the second. The bottom box combines its new point of view with the information from the first two to create the heaviest box.

My stack for this post.

In a song, where there is typically a chorus, these developing verses strengthen and round out the meaning of the chorus each time you hear it making the overall impact of the song greater. Pattison writes, “When a refrain (or chorus) attaches to verses that mean the same thing, the result is boredom. When it attaches to verses that develop the idea, it gains weight and impact. It dances.”

I see in this a simple but powerful model for dealing with the dueling demons of quality and cost. If I map out an idea in this way prior to any writing I force myself to determine:

  • If the idea is worth writing about at all
  • If the idea has the legs to support an entire post
  • The points that have to be made to communicate effectively
  • A flow that will keep the reader engaged from beginning to end
  • The impact I hope the reader will feel after reading

My guess is that some writers can arrive at these same results through a traditional outline and others have a knack for knowing exactly what they want to say and how to say it. For me, the power of Pattison’s idea is that the visualization tool – the stacked boxes of progressive impact – helps me to actually see how a post will unfold for the reader before I begin writing.

I would love to hear what you think of this visualization tool; how you think it worked for me on this post and other methods you use to organize your own writing.

* Confession time. When I started writing this post – about using this tool – I didn’t use the tool. I defaulted to my old ways and I wasted a lot of time. For some reason I still expect ideas to fall out of my fingertips fully formed. I did, however, use it to produce what you have just read. I kept revisiting the boxes as I wrote and even fine-tuned the ideas as I went – the middle box changed a number of times. I didn’t spend enough time up front. Like any new process, even three little boxes, this will take determination and practice.

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Posted by: Bruce Kaechele
Email the author: brucek@fathom.net