Use Mind Mapping to Plan Your Blog

The most successful bloggers don’t find their topics one at a time. Instead, they plan ahead, coming up with categories, topics, and even individual post ideas. A mind map is a great way to organize all those thoughts in one place. Continue reading

The Advantage to Writing What You Know

For the last 3 years in November I have participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). But what this year’s experience is teaching me is how much easier it is to write what you know.

In the first 2 years, of NaNoWriMo, I slogged my way through science fiction or fantasy novels – genre fiction where I had to create everything from characters to cultures. It wasn’t easy going, and I didn’t meet my 50,000 word goal either time.

But this year I’m writing about students’ rights in schools, a topic I have covered repeatedly on the blog for Schmidt Law Services, PLLC. Even though now I have facts and figures to contend with, the writing itself is far easier. Why? Because I am writing from what I know.

Everyone is an expert in something, whether it be the bankruptcy code or craft beers. By tapping in to and building up that expertise, you can create something more robust and interesting to your readers than you ever could on a foreign issue.

I see this in my ghost-blogging too. When I first bring on a new client, the articles take far longer to research and the topics can be somewhat safe. But as I become more familiar with the client’s perspective, opinions, and subject matter, I become braver and the writing becomes easier.

If you are just delving into the world of professional writing, either through a blog or a book, write from what you know. Develop your writing skills in familiar waters before diving in to the heavy duty research involved in a new intellectual area. The writing will be faster, easier, and better than if you start from scratch.

Lisa Schmidt is a writer for Legal Linguist, specializing in providing custom content for legal websites. If you want Lisa to help you write a blog or a book, contact Legal Linguist for an appointment today.

The Terror of the Blank Page

It sits there, staring at you, taunting you with your inability to fill it. But I assure you, you are mightier than the blank page and it is easily vanquished once you set aside your terror. Continue reading

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!

Perfecting Your Blog, Not Blogging Perfection

Alright, admit it. There are times you go back to the same blog post 5 or even 10 times and wish you had written it differently. Maybe you keep editing and updating even after the post is published. Lots of lawyers are perfectionists, but applying a standard of perfection will hurt your blog, not help it.

Demanding that you produce a flawless blog every time will diminish your creativity, slow your writing progress, and could even keep you from blogging at all. You will be so focused on writing it right, you eventually won’t be able to write anything without fear of imperfection. Perfectionism may help when you are editing a major brief or finalizing your web layout, but in a regularly updated blog, it can be more of a hindrance.

Instead of trying to write the perfect blog every time, treat the blog as a whole as a living, growing sample of your work. Acknowledge that some of your posts will be excellent while others are merely adequate. Every once in a while, go back and read some of your early posts. There’s a good chance your new work will look a lot closer to perfect by comparison.

Blog writing is a learned skill. It is not something you will do perfectly right away. If you hold yourself to unreasonable standards of perfection early on you will get discouraged. You will be more likely to lose your drive and let your blog join the thousands of other stagnant pools that never get updated.

Focus instead on improvement. Not perfect, but perfecting. By learning from past mistakes and practicing your craft you will become a better blogger over time. If you need help perfecting your writing without being perfect, contact blogging coach Lisa Schmidt today.

Expanding Your Blog’s Focus

MP900438755No matter what your blog’s topic, eventually you are going to hit a slow news day. But just because there’s no big headline doesn’t mean your website is taking the day off. Uploading new content regularly is essential to building your online visibility. So what do you do when there’s no news?

Just because there is no new case or exciting front page article doesn’t mean that there is nothing to write about. When the news gets slow it’s time to get creative. Maybe now is the time to go back and take one of those tangents you cut out of a previous blog or explain a legal term. Remember, knowledge that is automatic for you may be completely new for your clients.

Some of the best blogs articles are the ones that break down your services for your clients. Consider explaining one of your offerings. Walk potential clients through the procedure of a typical lawsuit, or explain the basic elements of a more typical criminal charge that you defend.

If you are still having trouble coming up with a topic, it’s time to expand your horizons. Imagine topics that are related to your blog, but may not be directly on point. If you do family law, consider an article on parenting styles. A business lawyer could take a moment to talk about the stock market. A criminal lawyer might detour to discuss incarceration statistics.

Your readers are looking for your unique perspective, not necessarily for a news source. When there’s no headline news, it’s time to develop your voice and let potential clients know who you are and what you think. Even if the topic is only somewhat related to your caseload.

Breaking Out of Writer’s Block

BusinesswomanYou’ve identified your audience and chosen a topic for your blog. You’ve probably written a few posts that popped into your head right away. But now you’re a month or so in and you’ve exhausted the obvious ideas. How do you come up with what to write about?

Your blog is not like a diary that you can pick up and put down as the mood strikes you. It is a tool to drive visitors (and potential clients) to your website. That means you have to be diligent in posting new content on a regular basis. As Sam Glover of Lawyerist.com said in a recent article,

You wouldn’t read a newspaper if it only came out occasionally—and people don’t read an “occasional” blog. Your blog should be a daily devotional. If you can’t do that, then do it weekly. You have to keep reminding people you are there. If you do, and you’ve got great content, many will come back for every post—just like they will seek out and read all the books by their favorite author.

But how do you come up with something new every day (or week)? Break it up. Identify the major players and ideas that happen within your topic.

Maybe your topic is affected by key influential thinkers or decision makers like the Supreme Court Justices. Follow that person on Twitter or do searches for quotes in your favorite search engine.

Is there a particular place or business that comes up a lot? That business might have a blog that you could follow to find out about upcoming changes.

What types of people like plaintiffs or mediators show up a lot in your writing? Are there groups or organizations that represent those kinds of people that you can follow on Facebook?

By breaking down your topic into its component pieces, you can find new ideas for articles. You can also identify key sources for updated information. With a rich collection of sources sending you information from their own (hopefully frequently updated) social media outlets, you’ll never be at a loss for words.