5 Options for Writing Inspiration

Food motivated? Cash motivated? Seeing your byline in a new journal motivated? Find what works for you. (Photo by Chintan Mehta at the Alder Foodcart Pods in Portland, Ore.).
Food motivated? Cash motivated? Seeing your byline in a new journal motivated? Find what works for you. (Photo by Chintan Mehta at the Alder Foodcart Pods in Portland, Ore.).

I’ll admit it—there was a time (cough, early 20s) when I felt like I needed to be “inspired” to write my best pieces. This certainly put a kink in homework for my poetry classes. After all, if I wasn’t “feeling” alliteration or the urge to write my own version of a Robert Frost poem, what was the point? Of course, as a Type-A, I always got it done (and there were some real loser pieces that I hope never see the light of day), but that wasn’t the big issue. The big issue was this: A “real” writer, one who makes a living at it, can’t wait for inspiration or motivation.

 

On average, I write between 20-50 pieces per day for a variety of clients. I really aim for a five-day work week, so that’s up to 250 unique pieces every single week. With those kinds of numbers, you certainly can’t wait around waiting for the mood to strike. That’s like a prostitute in Nevada (let’s keep it legal) waiting to be in the mood before taking on the next client. They’re not going to be very successful. You need to suck it up, fake it at times, and get it done.

 

However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some “tricks” (pun a happy accident). Here are my favorite ways to up the motivation:

 

  1. Do a quick Google News search

 

Does your client want a piece about mobile readiness with a link to a site about eco-friendliness? Have you written seemingly thousands of mobile readiness blogs or articles in your career? The best way to get a fresh perspective or cutting edge information is to peruse your favorite news source. Mine is Google for starters. Even seeing a headline can give you inspiration for a fresh new angle.

 

  1. Work out

 

Some of my best ideas have come mid-cardio—which means I always have a means of taking notes when I’m working out. Usually, this is most helpful mid-day right before that staple afternoon slump. The pumping blood, endorphins, change of scenery and adrenaline are a great cocktail for motivation. Plus, it counteracts that poor writer’s posture.

 

  1. Work as soon as you wake up

 

Studies have shown that most people are most productive within the first few hours of waking up. It doesn’t matter if you wake up at 4am sometimes to work (guilty) or noon. Take advantage of your most rested, alert and motivated time of day. This is where procrastinators can get in trouble—so make sure a reward (like breakfast) is waiting after a certain number of pieces are done.

 

  1. Track your daily income

 

Once you know how much you’d like to make per year, break it down by month, week and day. If you need a kick in the pants to power through, track how much you’ve made so far for the day. Suddenly busting out a few more pieces to make that mark is a little easier.

 

  1. Do a chore as your “mini break”

 

I’m a big supporter of mini breaks throughout the day. It helps to rejuvenate your eyes, ensures you’re moving on a regular basis, and basically keeps you from going writer crazy a la Jack Torrance. However, if you work at home and your “break” is something like putting away the laundry, it’s a two-part win. 1) You’re getting a chore done and 2) Suddenly writing one more blog doesn’t seem that bad compared to hanging up your t-shirts.

 

How do you get motivated as a writer?

 

 

4 SEO Resolutions for 2015

No matter how you ring in the New Year, make sure it's spiked with SEO.
No matter how you ring in the New Year, make sure it’s spiked with SEO.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a critical part of any business with an online presence. Unfortunately, the majority of small businesses in the US have no website—even fewer have SEO in place. SEO is an ever-evolving set of best practices that help your website get ranked higher on search engines like Google based on “your” keywords or key phrases. For example, a dog groomer in Portland might have “Portland dog grooming” as one of their key phrases. When someone types that into Google, there’s a reason certain websites come up as the first hit and others come up on page three.

Studies have shown that almost nobody looks beyond the first page of search results. Few people even look past the first few hits. There are many items included in SEO, but content is king. SEO algorithms “want” high quality, unique content with just the right amount of keyword density. There was a time when keyword stuffing (sometimes to such a degree that the content read like nonsense) was a shortcut to boosting your SEO ranking. Those days are over because algorithms are better, and it’s now considered a “black hat trick” and might even result in a Google penalty.

Does your website have the SEO-rich content and other strategies necessary going into 2015? Here’s a checklist to be sure:

  1. Ditch the black hat tricks

Some website owners embrace black hat tactics and don’t even know it. Others hire an SEO “professional” who try to get away with it. If you get caught by Google, it’s tough to get back in their good graces. Learn the basics of black hat tricks so you know what not to do.

  1. Revere quality, SEO-rich content

Just like it’s not easy to be a premium website developer or graphic designer, it’s not simple to be a skilled writer with SEO know-how. It’s not enough to just have quality content on your website. You need SEO-rich content to help move up the rankings.

  1. Speed things up

One of the SEO ranking factors is speed, and there are many factors to consider. Maybe your web developer needs to re-format the images or videos, maybe you need to change web hosts, or maybe responsive design isn’t being taken care of. Google researchers have shown that the average person won’t wait even a blink of an eye (literally) longer than they feel is normal for a site to load. They’re quick to back click.

  1. Optimize for Amazon

For years, “SEO” and “SEO for Google” have been used interchangeably because Google is the most popular search engine in the US. Even though Google is notoriously secretive about their algorithm, guru-employees like Matt Cutts also dish up plenty of SEO advice. Chances are high that what’s good for Google is good for Bing, Yahoo!, or any other search engine.

But now there’s Amazon. If you’re an e-tailer or you’re connected to Amazon in any way, it’s time to start optimizing for this shopping search engine as well as Google. People search differently on Amazon and have different objectives. Your SEO needs to reflect this.

The best way to do this? Hire a reputable SEO agency. You get what you pay for, especially with SEO. If you have a website that’s not optimized—and you’re on page two for all your keywords—you may as well not be online.

 

 

So You’re a Writer…What’s Your Real Job?

Do your passion, even when others think it's foolish. (Photo: Personal, by Chintan Mehta from An Elefabulous Evening at Wildlife Safari, Winston, Ore.).
Do your passion, even when others think it’s foolish. (Photo: Personal, by Chintan Mehta from An Elefabulous Evening at Wildlife Safari, Winston, Ore.).

Contrary to popular belief, you really can write for a living without the need of a second job, part-time job, inheritance or wealthy love interest. I know because I’m doing it, but there’s still a big, stinky stigma around writers as professionals. Plus, I also boast a lot of cliches myself. Yes, I got my undergrad degree in English (making it even better by specializing in British Medieval Literature, and then going on for a master’s degree in writing). Yes, I love to read, I consider myself a “creative type” and I’ve published books through a traditional trade press. However, that’s largely where the stereotypes end.

Before founding MehtaFor and writing (much more!) than full time, I worked for a variety of non-profits for eight years. My titles ranged from Director of Alumni Relations to Director of Event Coordination. It basically meant I was writing press releases, grant proposals, RFPs, website content, brochures and everything else you can imagine. I was a writer with a different title charged with a bunch of admin tasks to boot.

They weren’t horrible jobs, but it just wasn’t the right fit. Why couldn’t I make a living doing both what I love and what I was naturally good at? The better question was, “What the heck took me so long?”

Happy Accidents

I stumbled into entrepreneurship and then small business ownership (and then training others to do what I do) the way a lot of people get there: Getting laid off during the Great Recession. The department I was working for closed, and I had an opportunity to move to Costa Rica (where cost of living is much lower), so I grabbed it. En route, I picked up my first freelance writing gig from a Craigslist fluke.

A few years later, and plenty of hard lessons later, business has blossomed. Here’s what nobody tells English majors in college: Every single business, regardless of size, needs professional writing. Some businesses figure it out sooner than others. Especially in the digital era and the age of mobile readiness, this means writers who specialize in web content, search engine optimization (SEO), blogging, etc. are particularly in high demand.

Writing. It’s a recession-proof job with endless projects, clients and opportunities if you’re good, fast, and know where the best (for you) clients are.

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