Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

009: My Top Four Tips for Writing Awesome Articles (That You’re Probably Ignoring) [Podcast]

Sometimes, while standing in line at the grocery store and pretending I’m not reading tabloid headlines, I daydream of seeing an article of mine in The New Yorker or another reputable magazine.

Photo credit: Tom Small via cc

Photo credit: Tom Small via cc

Be honest. You dream of that, too. Don’t you? Or maybe it’s seeing your book on display in the front window of a Barnes & Noble? Or getting your short story published in an anthology or journal? Right?

We all dream of getting our words noticed by a larger audience. Those of us who feel like we have a message to share want to reach more people. The question is, how?

In this episode of the podcast, we tackle four burning questions about writing and selling articles submitted by a reader, Tina Green Drake, through my Facebook page. And while Tina’s questions were specific to articles, the answers apply to all types of content creation.

So listen up.

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You can also download it at iTunes or on Stitcher.

Cultivate great ideas

How do you find usable writing ideas? This is where we begin.

Ideas usually come to me at the most inconvenient times. I’m sure they do for you, too. They hit me when I’m walking the dog or changing my son’s diaper or mowing the yard. Because that’s when my mind is free to wander.

The first key to success is catching those ideas and keeping them. A good writer has to be a good curator. And to curate ideas well, you need three things:

  • A system to capture ideas.
  • Tools to organize and store ideas.
  • Feedback to test which ideas work (and which don’t).

Find topics that sell

How do you know what you’re writing about is something that’s going to interest someone else? Good question.

Publishers want articles that move people and connect deeply to an emotion. And you won’t know what connects until you try. This is where blogging regularly, practicing in public, really pays off. You can iteratively put your work out there and see what connects.

When it’s done right, this becomes a beautiful dance between a writer and her audience, and all part of the creative process.

Learn to deliver consistently

How do you become a more disciplined and consistent writer, the kind that publishers can rely on?

The answer is simple but not easy: Commitment breeds consistency. Build a habit slowly, over time. [Tweet that]

Some days, it’s easy to write. Some days, it’s incredibly hard. The truth is, inspiration is merely a byproduct of your hard work.

When you discipline yourself to do the work, when you show up consistently, day in and day out, you are there and ready on the day when something magical happens.

You can’t wait for inspiration. The Muse is really an out-of-work bum who won’t move until you do. Show her who’s boss and that you mean business.

Build confidence and fight fear

I wish I could say that courage comes easy to me, or that I don’t have to face fear every single day I put my fingers to the keys. But that’s just not true.

I’ll be honest; this is still hard for me. It’s kind of weird, though. I’ve learned that you can feel courageous in the midst of fear. They’re not opposite. Confidence comes as you act. The feeling follows the action. So sometimes I have to fake it. I have to act the way I want to feel, until I learn to trust the feelings will come.

(Be sure to listen to the podcast to hear about how this helped me face down a drunken bully who spilled beer on my wife’s coat — really.)

Are you struggling, too?

Tina’s questions simmer in the minds of writers everywhere. They reveal the deep fears we all have: of not being good enough, running out of ideas, or falling short.

I seriously wish I could say these fears fall away with time, but they don’t. We just learn to work through them instead of against them. We step up to the bullies in our minds and face them down.

When they come back, we’re still afraid, but we have that experience to lean on. We have the encouragement of other writer friends, the blog post that touched someone, or the accepted article.

For me, this podcast is still scary. It’s part of my dance with you, my listeners. I’d love to hear what you think in an honest review.

You can also copy and paste this URL into the podcast player of your choice: https://feeds.feedburner.com/ThePortfolioLifeJeffGoins

And if you’re enjoying the podcast, please tweet about it or share it with your friends on Facebook.

Also, if you have any questions for future episodes like this one, let me know (just shoot an email to jeff at goinswriter dot com).

What scares you the most about writing? Share in the comments.

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • Love this Jeff. Well done with these practical and informative piece here. The feedback loop is big for me. Ensuring that my readers resonate with my content is something I need to do a better job. If you have a few minutes, I’d love you to check out my blog and give me some feedback: http://www.paulsohn.org

    • Thanks, Paul! Glad you liked it. 🙂

  • Hi Jeff, I really liked the comment you included in the intro. “Confidence is something you do and then feel” There is the scripture t hat says where your treasure if there your heart will be also. – I used to always think this was backwards. We think that we will invest in the areas we are passionate about. However, it is a principle that our heart (or confidence) will follow our investments. My heart often tells me I can write tomorrow, but I have to make the investment to write today.

  • Love it Jeff. My biggest fear now is that I will run out of things to say.

  • A

    Curation breeds creativity. My own swipe file could use a spring cleaning; however, I have a fear of tossing valuable tidbits that I may not be able to find later. Thanks for the suggestion of Evernote. This looks like a helpful tool. I am looking forward minimizing the chaos and maximizing my creativity. Cheers to organized inspiration Jeff!

  • Melanie Fischer

    I love this post Jeff! One of the fears that I have is that I will start in the wrong place, or do things out of the necessary order.
    Feel the fear and do it anyway!!

  • I think I fear not saying anything new. There isn’t much that hasn’t already been said(written) about a topic. I remind myself that nobody can say it quite like I can….

  • WOW! This post by far my favorite! Pushing publish is a persistent fear that plagues me. The very thing I want is want I don’t want to face. Facing off with the enemy reveals I’m my own worst! Thank you for being awesome and bringing your expertise and excellence to my life with Tribe Writers. Can’t contain my excitement ahead!

    • Thanks, Janelle. It’s my pleasure. I appreciate you listening.

  • The thing that’s scary is really putting yourself out there. As I’ve opened up and gotten real there have been a few haters but the majority have responded positively. I would love to fully open up the way the greats do.

    • Totally. I’m glad you’re doing it, though, Kimanzi.

  • I think my biggest fear when it comes to writing is that readers won’t like what I write. I have had to remind myself that I write first to glorify God. I write for me – to help me process life’s stretch marks. Then I write for others.

    • I think that’s the right reason to write, Jon.

  • Marcy Mason McKay

    I needed to be reminded how interconnect ALL parts of our lives are, whether it’s courage to show up to that blank page everyday, or standing up to drunk bullies at the theater. Thanks.

  • Denise

    Now that I’ve finally found the courage to start writing, I can’t seem to get past the fear of letting anyone read what I’ve written.

    • That’s a whole other hurdle, Denise. But it’s worth getting over. 🙂

  • Marcus Forte

    I’m afraid of being exposed as a fraud. I never want to come off sounding “too strong” just to have someone point out that I’m wrong.

  • Arshad Ali

    Nice goins sir you are really a good writer I know.
    It’s very helpful for all blogger .
    You can visit
    http://www.way4idea.com

  • Mariam

    I’m still young and I’m afraid that I don’t have enough experience in life to actually write, although I’ve made a blog and really looking forward to writing my first post. Excited but self-conscious.
    What do you suggest? & thank you in advance.

  • Kelly F Barr

    I fear not being good enough at writing the genre I want to write.

  • Margie Hord

    Perhaps more for your books, but I’ve seen how you get ideas from your public, ask for experiences, etc… and include them! Great idea.

  • JoanneM

    Jeff,
    i love your blog. Thanks a ton for your advice ! I was finally able to publish my first article and even got paid for it. I’m hoping this will help get my name out there, since I am planning on a career in writing. In fact the platform (called freeditorial) that accepted my article is also a book publisher. So I’m really hoping to impress them ! Wish me luck

  • Krithika Rangarajan

    Bullies are cowards, and within us resides the most insidious one of them all! 🙁 Thank you for leading by example, Jeff. You practice what you preach (although you never really ‘preach’ 😉 ), and we lovee you for your courage, commitment and compassion!

    #HUGSS

    Kitto