About a month ago, when we were still trapped in the insufferable humid heat of summer in New York, one of my colleagues made a humorous comment that stuck:
“I wonder just how many content marketing blog posts include the phrase “Writing is hard?””
Since then, I’ve privately vowed not to use that line again in my own work, save in the retelling of this brief moment. But yet, the message remains so firmly planted within the minds of writers that countless stories and articles and books have been written to make the process of writing easier for those who are struggling.
I still remember the first time I realized that writing was hard. I was in the 8th grade, a precocious kid, and our teacher had assigned us a short essay in the first week of school, due on Monday—a ticking clock if there ever was one in my young life. The assignment was simple: we had to analyze a quote from the 80s rock band, Journey, “Lookin’ back with no regrets. To forgive is to forget.” (Gotta love 80s pop wisdom).
I sat before the blank page all of Saturday before pushing off the assignment to Sunday, and by Sunday night I was a mess of pubescent tears and pulled hair. I had never experienced a writing block before, not like this, and while I have many times since, this first time still sticks out in my mind as extraordinary. After all, in a relatively unsophisticated situation, I was confronted with a series of age-old concerns, not least of all how to go about the art of writing and how to come up with good ideas.
Luckily, I found a solution to my problem that has helped me ever since and that solution is to tell a great story by exploiting your own experiences.
In the eleventh hour, on the edge of a stress-related breakdown, my middle school self began to write that essay, a saga about my past, about forgiving and forgetting. And I still remember how that felt too, how relieving it was to get something down that I knew was working.
There are many ways to use personal stories to jumpstart your writing, but I’m going to focus on two broad methods; using a personal story as the subject of your writing and using a personal story as inspiration for your writing.
Writing Personal Stories for Your Company Blog
Although it may seem counterintuitive, personal narrative has a place in your branded writing.
First, you can tell great stories (or even not the greatest stories) in the introduction, as a diving board to get you into the meat of your piece.
And secondly, they can actually be the meat of your stories if you have personal stories that will inform other people in your industry. After all, who among us doesn’t want to hear about how powerful CEOs or vibrant startup founders get business done?
In addition to writing with more ease, you’ll find that writing about painful, embarrassing, or otherwise tense moments in your life is actually an exercise in personal growth, as well as an opportunity to bond with your readers. They have felt these emotions too and exposing yourself as (*gasp*) a human being who occasionally experiences vulnerability will help you create a meaningful connection with these potential customers.
Using Personal Stories as Inspiration for Your Branded Writing
But almost more importantly than using personal stories in your content writing, an alert writer can use personal stories as inspiration for blog posts.
Use these moments in your own life as a source of inspiration in your work. Because in some respect, everything you write should be personal. And even if you’re not waxing poetic about the first time you realized writing was hard as a child, your writing should reflect YOU, your personal perspective on the world. After all, it is only once you have a broad idea that you can hone your thesis down to a sharp point.
So harness the powerful drive of personal narrative and tell a great story in your content writing, whether you’re using personal experience as the subject of your writing or as inspiration in the idea generation phase. You’ll be surprised at how much you have to say.