“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
― Stephen King
There’s this well-exercised piece of writing mythology that the best writers are the best readers – that without a love (or at least an appreciation) of other people’s writing, you’ll never be good at your own.
There has to be some validity to that, right? Because how else would you learn to write other than by studying writers who already do?
Having said that, the norms of novel writing don’t really apply to digital content – at least not all the time. But in this case, they really do.
I honestly, truly believe that you can channel your love of books into outstanding digital content – no matter what you like to read. Yep, you read that right, I’m not going to insist you start reading all the books in your niche. Your secret love of crime fic and cookbooks and angry feminist poetry will work too.
Be inspired by imagery
How many times have we all been told: “don’t judge a book by its cover”? How many times have we promptly ignored this advice?
I’m not ashamed to admit that I am incredibly swayed by pretty book covers. One of the ways I like to use them is to inspire visual content.
Yep, I use my favourite book covers to inspired blog images, Insta graphics, webinar slides, and everything in between. Now I’m not saying you should out and out rip off someone else’s design, but I am saying you can pull out the elements that catch your eye and bring them into your branding.
Here are a few examples of how this could work:
Swipe the quirky and cool
One of the things that DRIVES ME MAD about the online world is that everybody uses the exact same words and phrases – because they all watch the same webinars and take the same courses and read the same blog posts.
But in their spare time, they’re not all reading the same books.
Swipe striking descriptions or interesting words from your latest read, and weave those into your digital content.
Stop telling us you don’t do “cookie cutter content” – show us instead.
Tell your story
Storytelling is an increasingly frustrating internet buzzword at the mo.
Every man and his dog and his one-legged parrot and his father’s grandmother’s sister’s girl is opening up everything with an inane anecdote or two… and just UGH.
Don’t get me wrong – storytelling is a powerful tool if used correctly, but it so rarely is. People seem to think that any story will do and it won’t. It’s got to be interesting. It’s got to be compelling. And above else, it’s got to be related to whatever it is you’re talking about.
What it does not have to be, is true. If you’ve done something of note, by all means, use that, but if you haven’t, steal a story from a book you’ve read and apply it to your topic.
Learn all about those things we call emotions
If you’re creating any kind of digital content it’s because you want somebody to take some sort of action – whether that’s leaving you a comment, or signing up for something, or buying something, or implementing something, or whatever.
To get people to DO something, you first need to get them to FEEL something.
Use your reading time to study the emotions evoked – I don’t mean how these authors describe an emotion, I mean how they make YOU feel. If you’re reading something and you feel excited, or dubious, or nostalgic, or anything at all, pause and take note.
- What kind of language or imagery has inspired this feeling?
- What topics or descriptions are involved?
- What’s the sentence structure like? Long? Short? A mix?
Take on these tips when you want to evoke those same emotions.
Apply that topic to your topic
This won’t work for every book you read but bear with me here.
Pull out key learnings from a book you’ve read and explore those in a piece of content. Always try to link these back to your niche topic in some way.
I really love this one – it gives you a lot of scope to be creative, and we need more of that online.
If you want a real life, here’s an article I wrote inspired by Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Ok, in the interest of being 100% transparent it’s based on an event I went to where she was talking about Big Magic, but the same rules apply.
Add to your stash of quotes
Am I the only one with an Evernote file bursting at the seams with interesting and inspiring quotes?
Quotes are the best. You can use them to inspire an entire piece of content, or you can use them throughout your work to support your point (or at least make it a bit more dynamic).
You’ll notice that I opened up this post with a quote by Stephen King from his book, On Writing. That’s me following my own advice right there.
The post-it method of idea generation
When I read a book, specifically when I’m reading a non-fiction book in the realm of business or personal development, I sit with a pile of post-its in my hand.
Whenever I come across a quote, or an idea, or a concept that piques my interest, I note it down then stick that post-it on the page in question.
Then, once I’m done, I flick back through those pages and collect all my notes without looking at the context. This is not about ripping ideas out of someone else’s writing, it’s about inspiring my own.
Not everyone reads as fiercely as I do, I know that. But if you’re in the business of creating content you owe it to yourself to read a little. Sharpen your skills. Inspire yourself. Make yourself more attractive than a Whipple Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delight.
Take action: Pick one of these tips – any tip you like – and apply it to your own digital content.