Why I Hate That I Should Be Writing

“I should be writing.”

Every writer, blogger, or idealist has thought this at least once… a week. Ok let’s be serious, I may have thought this more days than not. But the sentence does more harm than good and can actually kill my ambition to write.

And let’s be clear, I am a writer. I maintain two blogs for myself and write ghost blogs for other lawyers and I have six novels in various stages of not-finished. And yet there are days, even weeks when I have trouble writing a word. Why? Because “I should be writing.”

I think about writing a lot. I’ll find a “blog-able” article while browsing the internet or come up with a fantastic plot while driving. But the moment my brain shifts from wanting to write about something to the dreaded should be, all bets are off.

That’s because suddenly the desire is an obligation. It gets added to the list of all the things I really ought to get to, most of which I really don’t want to do.

And along with that sense of obligation comes the feeling of shame. Shame on me for not doing all those things. Shame on me for not writing every day like I’ve been told by every writing teacher or coach I’ve ever had. And that makes it even worse.

The only thing worse than “I should be writing” is “You should be writing.” Then my inability to put pen to page isn’t just a personal short-coming. It is a failure in a duty I hold to someone in authority, or even the world (remember, writers tend to have big imaginations, that means we can blow things out of proportion sometimes). After I’ve let all those writing teachers down, I couldn’t possibly make amends just by picking up a pen now, could I?

Yes, I could. Every word on page or screen is better than no words. Every thought memorialized is better than the blank page. Better, not because I’ve satisfied some obligation but because I actually do enjoy writing. It’s fun and it energizes me. I feel better having done it.

The challenge is to keep that feeling stronger than the shame I feel for not doing it. The best way to do that? Start writing. Not because I “should be” or because it will make me a better writer, and certainly not because I might maybe make some money off it, but because I enjoy doing it.

I am a writer, I just need to remember that I like it.

I intentionally wrote this piece in first person to eliminate any ‘self-help’ vibes it might have. If you have any suggestions for the “should be” writers out there please add them in the comments!

How To Recycle Your Blog

Is your blog disposable? Are you using each post once and then throwing it on the garbage file? What if there was a way to recycle your content and make it work harder for you?

“Reduce” Your Effort

You’ve put hard work into crafting a quality blog post about an interesting topic. Share it with the world! Or at least your social media network. Rather than spinning your wheels rewriting the same information over and over, set up your blog to automatically post messages on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. Those sites will attract more traffic to your blog and get you more followers.

“Reuse” Your Old Posts

Unless your blog is focused on the bleeding edge of technology law, some of your articles probably have some staying power. When a topic you have written about before becomes popular again – like when a celebrity couple files for divorce – pull out your greatest hits and share them on social media all over again. Just make sure to keep them updated with any changes to the law.

“Recycle” Your Content

If your blog is focused on your topic, it is likely you will find yourself coming back to the same issues over time. Save time, energy, and word count by linking to old blog articles rather than reinventing the wheel. You’ll be able to get more in-depth and provide more quality content to your readers. Plus, search engines will love the back-links to your site so you’ll improve your SEO.

Writing a high-quality blog can take effort, but there’s no reason throw your energy in the trash. Recycle your blog through social media and cross-links to make the most of your work. If you need help writing or publicizing your blog, contact blogging coach Lisa Schmidt for more information.

Is Your Personal Blog Hurting You Professionally?

U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf made headlines this week with his blog – but not in a good way. The federal judge told the Supreme Court to “stfu,” complete with link. The blog was personal, rather than business-related, but that didn’t keep the comment from affecting the Judge’s reputation.

The judge was blogging on the recent Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision, which he felt did harm to the integrity of the Court. He said:

“Five male Justices of the Supreme Court, who are all members of the Catholic faith and who each were appointed by a President who hailed from the Republican party, decided that a huge corporation, with thousands of employees and gargantuan revenues, was a ‘person’ entitled to assert a religious objection to the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate because that corporation was ‘closely held’ by family members. To the average person, the result looks stupid and smells worse. . . .

“Next term is the time for the Supreme Court to go quiescent– this term and several past terms has proven that the court is now causing more harm (division) to our democracy than good by deciding hot button cases that the court has the power to avoid. As the kids say, it is time for the Court to stfu.”

As lawyers (and judges), we are held to a code of conduct. That code doesn’t switch off with our office lights. We can’t take it off when we hang up our suit coats (or robes). It is with us every day, all day. And that counts double for our online actions.

Judge Kopf’s blog may have been personal, but it was clearly connected to his legal life and reputation. He blogged about political issues and attorneys who appeared before him. His stated desire was that:

“Federal trial judges be seen as individuals with all the strengths and weaknesses (baggage) that everyone else carries around.”

It should come as no surprise that his statements on that blog might attract attention and hurt his reputation, and possibly career as a federal judge.

The same is true if you or I maintain a personal blog outside the office or engage in social media. Our words can be traced back to our business, and they can hurt you. Just recently 2 Florida public defenders found themselves out of a job after they posted derogatory comments on Facebook about Palestinians using terms their office deemed hate speech.

Keep these cases in mind as you weave your way through social media this week. Your words affect your reputation, and (unless you are in Europe), the Internet never forgets. If you need help building a professional online image, contact blogging coach Lisa Schmidt for a consultation.

Sneak Peak: Google My Business

Just when you think you’ve gotten Google‘s social media strategy down, they’ve changed it again. The new “Google My Business” links together your Google+, Google Maps, and Google Local accounts into a one-stop access hub for clients. But only if you set it up correctly. Continue reading

TL;DR When Enough is Really Too Much

Are you losing your readers with long, difficult posts?TL;DR: Lawyers like to use lots of words when a few are enough. It can make their blogs long and boring for readers.

Have you ever seen a comment “TL;DR” or “TLDR” on your blog? If so, you probably are one of the many lawyers who write too much. TL;DR is an Internet meme that stands for “too long; didn’t read.” Urban Dictionary says it is:

Said whenever a nerd makes a post that is too long to bother reading.

So what do you do to keep from being that nerd?

Watch Your Word Count

Long blogs turn off casual readers. If people are faced with an immediate need they may be willing to slog through 1000s of words, but your regular subscribers won’t. Keep your posts short. If a concept is complicated, break it up into a blog series. Otherwise you risk losing your readers halfway through.

Use Short Sentences

Your mastery of the semicolon may have impressed professors in college and law school, but it doesn’t impress the Internet. Complex sentences force your readers to go slowly and re-read parts they did not understand. That can double or even triple the perceived length of your piece. Break up your thoughts into short, digestible ideas and your readers will be able to bear with you longer.

Avoid Legalese

Nothing will lose your readers faster than words they don’t understand. Unless you specialize in legal malpractice, your clients probably didn’t go to law school. You don’t want your readers giving up on the important point you are making, so break it down for them. As a rule of thumb, if the word appears in Black’s Law Dictionary, you probably need to define it for your readers.

Use Introductions and Headings

Your readers like to know what to expect when they start reading. The “stub” – your lead paragraph – should chart a clear course. Then you can use headings to mark the way. Readers will feel like they’re making progress and will be more willing to read on.

Keep it Interesting

No matter how short your post, you can still lose readers if your topic is dull. But just because you are discussing loan agreements doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Spice up your blog with quotes, stories, examples, and illustrations. They will keep your reader’s interest and help them understand your point.

Let’s face it, law can be boring. But just because the topic is dry doesn’t mean you can’t get readers to follow you. By keeping careful eye on your structure, word choices, and article length, you can get clients to read all the way to the end.

Do you have other tricks that have helped readers make it through your content? Share them in the comments.