Suddenly Marketing

Brand Messaging | Content Strategy | Writing

Write drunk; edit sober. How to blog like you mean it

Listen to this post:

 

Blogging can be scary. Some days, it feels like you’ve been pushed on stage and asked to do stand-up. The guy who was on before you totally killed it. The crowd was laughing in the aisles and people were repeating his catch phrase. Now you’re up there, peering through the glare of the floor lights, trying to catch a glimpse of the audience, sweating under the deep and awkward silence of a crowd waiting to see what you’re going to do.

Yeah. Sometimes, blogging is like that.

So, you ask yourself, how do people get brave enough to put themselves and their brands out there in authentic, vulnerable, stick-their-necks-out ways? How do they find the nerve to say the thing that needs to be said? What gives them the self-assurance they need to blog in a way that makes them stand out from the crowd, capture attention, and make people give a damn?

 

The answer: courage.

Courage isn’t a lack of fear. It is feeling the fear and doing it anyway. True courage does not come easily. You have to dig down deep and find the strength to face the dragons that stand in your way. You have to take a breath, square your shoulders, and push past the fear.

But, we all know there’s another way – a shortcut. It’s called liquid courage. You know what I’m talking about – the inhibition-lowering, boldness-bolstering, let-me-at-‘em kind of courage. The sure-I’ll-karaoke kind of courage. The lemme-tell-you-what-I-think kind of courage.

If you haven’t gotten to the point in your blogging evolution where you can tap into true courage, if you’re still teetering on the edge of writing posts that make you cringe a little when you click the “publish” button, you might want to try writing like you’re a little tipsy.

 

Write drunk; edit sober.

Most often attributed to Hemingway, this little gem of writing advice is perfect for bloggers. Like good fiction, a good blog needs to reach out and grab the reader. It needs to say something worth saying. It needs to take some kind of stand, but too often, especially on business blogs, we settle for the ho-hum and so-so. We play it safe.

This is called “going through the motions,” and it’s not going to help you build an audience, drive leads, or get known as a “thought leader.” It is going to bore people.

Whether you’re a solopreneur blogging as yourself or part of a corporate team trying to get out from under the red tape of management reviews and legal approvals, it can be hard to push beyond the easy, run-of-the-mill content so you can try something new or even controversial. I get it. But, if you don’t start taking steps in that direction, if you don’t start giving people something worth reading, why even bother blogging

Now, I’m not saying we should all go out and get hammered; but what if we applied the attributes of intoxication to our blogger’s mindset?

 

Lowered inhibitions

You’ve seen it a hundred times in the movies and probably in real life, too. The shy guy finally asks the pretty girl out. The shy girl finally gets up and sings her heart out to a bar full of dumbstruck friends. The downtrodden desk jockey finally stands up and tells his boss what he really thinks.

Turning down the volume of your internal censor can be a good thing for your blogging. If your primary worries are about being politically correct and pleasing everyone, you’ll end up watering everything down and diluting your message until it’s not worth hearing. Instead, loosen up a little. Try to be less self-conscious. Roll with your “crazy” ideas.

 

Brilliant random associations and wild, unruly bursts of creative insight

Speaking of crazy ideas, get some more of those.

Whether your brainstorming takes place in the conference room with a team of editors and writers, or in your head with just you and your inner critic, make it a free-for-all. Make it a no-bad-ideas zone. Encourage wacky suggestions and cultivate an environment of curiosity and creativity.

Sometimes it takes a little inebriation to see more clearly. How many winning ideas have been hatched during happy hour? We get a different perspective. Our internal filters shut down and the ideas can suddenly flow freely – colliding into each other and creating new, hybrid ideas. Happy hour can be very fertile ground for innovation.

 

Swagger

“Lemme at ‘im!”

Eyes slightly glazed, but with a fire burning in them, you’re ready to take on Goliath … bare fisted … with one hand tied behind your back. You know you can handle him. No problem. No problem at all.

Blogging requires a little chutzpah. You have to believe that you’ve got what it takes. You have to believe you’ve got something worth saying. If anyone says, “Who do you think you are?”, you have to be ready to tell him exactly who you are.

 

Honesty

A cocktail, mixed correctly, is as good as the best high-test truth serum.

When you’ve had a few, pretenses drop, charades dissolve, and facades crumble. Your authentic self, who has been waiting patiently behind the lines of sobriety and propriety, rolls her head and cracks her knuckles like a boxer preparing to enter the ring. It’s finally game time. Finally her turn to show her stuff.

“You know what I’ve always wanted to tell you?” … and then it all starts to come out – all the really juicy bits, all the stuff that keeps the listener hanging on every word. You don’t need a fancy vocabulary, you just need to tell it like it is – straight up, no filter.

 

Affection

“I love you guys.”

What is it about spirits that makes it so easy for us to express our affections? Defenses come down and the whole world seems like one big hug fest. How did we not see the awesomeoness of these people before?

Feel the love. Go with it. You’re trying to connect with these people on a very real level. Why hold back? If you feel moved to do it, tell them you love them. They are the reason you’re here. They are the reason you do what you do. Go ahead – lay one on ‘em. They’ll love it.

 

The morning after

Hemingway’s approach is only effective if you work both sides of the equation. I think we’ve covered the “write drunk” part, but what about editing sober?

The key is breathing room. Premature publishing is akin to drunk dialing (or texting). The results can be disastrous and embarrassing. Brainstorm and write to your intoxicated heart’s content, but don’t hit “publish” until you’ve come down off your creativity’s party train and are able to look at things with a sober and impartial eye.

Believe me, you don’t want to wake up with a tattoo you don’t remember getting.

 

From liquid courage to the real thing

Eventually, you’ll find that you don’t need a shot of faux fearlessness to blog like you really mean it. Over time, practicing blogging like you’re tipsy (even though you aren’t … really), will give you all the true courage you need to get out there and speak your mind in a unique and engaging way. You’ll feel at ease, be open to new and creative ideas, find your groove, embrace your truth, and surrender to your affections.

And that’s when the magic will happen. You won’t worry about feeling trapped up on a stage you didn’t want to be on in the first place. You will have found your voice, your audience, and your stride. You’ll be working that spotlight like a pro and having a great time doing it.

 

 

What do you think?

Have you ever written something while under the influence? How’d it turn out? Did you publish it? Did you have to censor much?  If you work with a team, have you ever had a Friday afternoon happy hour brainstorming session? Did anything interesting come out of that? What holds you back from blogging like you mean it?

 

 

Special thanks to David Meerman Scott (@dmscott) and Gareth (@dartacus) for inspiring this post. Scott wrote a post about why you should avoid deleting your content and Gareth asked if that also applied to “the content created at 2am when you were drunk & shouldn’t have been allowed anywhere near the internet?” Scott conceded that maybe that could go, but the conversation got me thinking about how the stuff you write at 2AM when you’re drunk just might be some of the best stuff. So, there you go. Food for thought.

 

Image credit: WordsIGiveBy on etsy

Previous

Easy Marketing for Small Businesses: 5 tips that will help you today

Next

Freeform Friday: In the Company of Cats

25 Comments

  1. Hi Jamie,

    Great points on “inebriation” and writing! (and courage). Funny how of all the posts I’ve written, the pieces that resonated the most were posts that I didn’t really want to publish. Did it take courage to publish them. Nah! But I do remember they are pieces I wrote from “feeling” (vs. outline and research). And they were also posts that just came out of the blue, not while staring at the computer or chugging coffee. The most fertile ground for innovation is when you are relaxed – those moments of insight most often arrive when you are in a relaxed state. That might mean drunk, but I’ve never written while hammered, sounds like a fun experiment though 😉

    • Jamie Lee

      You bring up a great point that I missed – the relaxation factor. That is so true! When we are all keyed up, it’s impossible to find the creative flow that is the source of our best work. But, when we chill out (as when we have a little glass of something-something), the blocks dissolve and the muse sidles up for a visit.

      I can’t recall ever having written while I was, ahem, tipsy; but I have definitely had inspiring ideas that I’ve jotted down in my iPhone while out at a pub or lying in bed just about to fall asleep. Sometimes, I wake up and read my notes and wonder what the hell I was thinking; but other times I think, “Hey, that’s a pretty good idea!” :)

      Thanks for coming by. Always good to have your vibe here!

  2. Joe

    Hi Jamie

    Loved the analogies in this post :)
    As soon as I read that headline I whipped out my little book to write that quote in! Love quotes.
    I know I’m not supposed to take it literally (not entirely anyways), but I’m going to give drunk writing a whirl one time, maybe tonight!

    • Jamie Lee

      Thanks, Joe.

      You’re right that the headline it not meant to be taken literally (though I have a feeling Hemingway’s experience was not metaphorical), but I can’t see the harm in giving it a try … at least once. There are certainly worse things you could do while under the influence.

      Happy to have added to your quote collection. It is a good one. 😉

  3. Hi Jamie, thanks for such an encouraging post. I started my blog last August, and several times I have told my readers I loved them and wished the best for them. And you’re right – they love it! You mentioning that confirms my feeling about you are talking to people on your blog, not just a computer screen.

    • Jamie Lee

      Congratulations on your blog launch! It’s such an exciting adventure.

      I agree with what you said, “…you are talking to people on your blog, not just a computer screen.” That is one of the most important things to remember when you’re blogging. People need to know that you “see” them and understand. When you share things that are important to you, things that others can relate to – that’s when you make connections.

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment & best of luck with your blog. (Love the name – we all need a little more sunshine in our days!)

  4. Lynn

    Hello Jamie, Wondering if Hemmingway ever got socked in the chops for speaking his mind as I have a couple of times. It can be dangerous telling it like it is, so three cheers for all you kindred spirits and strength to your elbow!

    • Jamie Lee

      I don’t know that much about Hemingway, but what little I know leads me to believe that he’s probably been in his share of bar brawls (or the equivalent). 😉

      Speaking your mind can be dangerous – in real life and online; but most of the time it’s worth the risk.

      Leaving yourself that breathing room, however, can help reduce the chances that you’ll say something you wish you hadn’t. I know it’s saved my behind more than once!

      Nice to “see” you here. Thanks for coming by.

  5. I find I write better when I am tired, I relax into the writing and ramble on a bit sometimes getting to a point I wasn’t aiming for but a better one. I am a reserved person by nature so letting loose is not something I tend to allow myself for some reason and the tiredness seems to relax that wall. Being drunk is good too, although I find myself hating the idea in the morning.

    • Ah, yes. The morning after. Waking with bright eyes and a bushy tail requires some level of restraint. 😉

      Interesting that you feel you write better when you are tired. That’s my worst possible circumstance. When I am tired, I’m much more interested in reading than I am in writing.

      I DO, however, find that interesting things are loosed onto the page when I am not quite awake, such as very early in the morning. I do (as often as I can – usually 4 or 5 times a week) “morning pages” a la Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way.” More than once, I have returned to read a passage from that notebook and been pleasantly surprised to find a little gem or two.

      Tired, or not quite awake – both states probably work well because we are (as Craig pointed about above) RELAXED.

      Thanks for coming by, Chris … and for your expert help on the WordPress security comments. Great stuff!

  6. Laura

    You have been a roll lately and wow-whee!
    This is a huge issue for me – not the drinking part (I’m a wino-type “sipper” more than a hard-core Hemingway drinker) – but the fearlessness of letting go. I may be hypersensitive after I shared a possible blog post with a critique group, where someone said “there are too many rants and this is just another one of them.”
    (ouch)
    It’s difficult to balance saying what you want to say freely, especially about difficult or complex topics, AND have it qualify as palatable, even if you edit sober.
    It’ll be a long time before I’m comfortable, I think.
    Thank you for giving me something else to think about – this ties in well with your “Honey Badger” post too! Love it!

    • Thanks, Laura. :)

      There is a question of balance, isn’t there? Too far to the editing side, and your writing risks being over-sanitized, bland, and boring. Too far to the drunken side, and your writing may lack clarity, come off as hysterical, or never find readers.

      It’s hard to find that balance. It means always adjusting – like the performer on the high wire, you don’t maintain equilibrium by remaining motionless. You stay balanced on the wire by constantly shifting your weight – reacting and adjusting, tweaking tiny movements. It’s like that with writing.

      As for being comfortable, I’m not sure that’s necessarily part of the goal. I hope that I am always writing things that make me slightly uncomfortable. Not everything. Not all of the time. But, I want to always be pushing myself a little bit here and there – putting more of myself out there than I did last time. I don’t think that will ever become “easy,” but that’s ok. Overcoming the challenge is what helps us grow into the people we are … and hope to be.

  7. Heather Paquette

    Thanks so much for getting straight to the heart of the matter, in your usual style!

    I definitely think I wrote more freely in college just due to the inherent freedom of that setting. Free time, conversations and coffee with different groups of people, no huge responsibilities, etc. etc. Even when I read my diaries from those years I’m shocked at how much detail I put in!

    I’m going to print your post out to remind myself to just let go again and shake off the weight of my structured mom/work life and chill a bit with my writing!

    • Hello, Heather! :)

      Ahhh … the college years. When I go back to my journals from those days (and even just before, when I was a high school senior contemplating the freedom of college), I too am surprised by what I wrote. I had so few fears and I felt so few restrictions on my life.

      Now, as an adult, a single mom, and a business owner, I have all kinds of restrictions (and I DO feel them – some times more than others), BUT … you are so right about needing to “shake off the weight … and chill.”

      In fact, I think that having all of these responsibilities can actually HELP us to let loose a little. I always say that moms make the most efficient and effective employees because we don’t have time to mess around. We need to get the job done because it’s only one of the many jobs we need to do. Being a parent and having other job responsibilities and running a household and volunteering (or whatever else you may do) – all of those things can help fuel your ability to write more freely.

      For me, the LACK of time drives me to get “to the heart of the matter,” as you said, as directly as possible. What working mom has time for small talk? Nope. Let’s just get right to it. 😉

      I also think that there’s something to be said for being “older.” You look younger than me, but as someone who will be turning 44 (gasp!) this year, I can tell you that something definitely “clicked” for me over the past few years. It’s kind of like I stopped waiting for permission to say what I want to say. Maybe I finally realized I’m a grown up. Whatever it is – I’ve started to lose my inhibitions about speaking my mind. And, it feels great.

      Go ahead and shake that weight off, Heather. And to help you – check out this fabulous video from Florence and the Machine. Enjoy! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbN0nX61rIs

  8. Heather Paquette

    “with” your usual style, meaning flair, is what I meant. :)

  9. Jamie – Thanks so much for the continued encouragement, and for sending the awesome video! Now I will have a little musical “Shake It Out” mantra to hum when I am feeling stilted in my writing – LOVE it!

    Oh, and I’m 42, so I’m right there with ya!:) OK, back to my responsibilities, which aren’t feeling quite as heavy now. Thanks!

  10. This was one of the best “inspirational” kick in the ass posts I’ve read. I love the courage and swagger graphs. Definitely agree. I think I’ve got that part down, and hope that most of my posts are “real.” Good post :)

  11. Jamie,

    This is a very creative post and all great advice. I’m curious if you tried that first part of the equation on this particular article. If you did, it worked and so did the second part. I love it and the next time I feel like I’m staying too safe (and boring), I know what to do to shake things up. Guinness usually does the trick for me.

    Hope all is well and keep up the great work!

    • Ha, ha! No … I wasn’t sauced when I wrote the post, but I did get the idea for the post while enjoying a whisky with my beau.

      Thank you for your complimentary words. I’m glad you think the end result (whether or not it was fueled by a cocktail) was successful. :)

      I don’t think you are EVER boring, but I’d love to see what you let loose if you let Guinness be your guide. Let me know when you’re going to give it a go, and I’ll join you in a virtual toast.

      Thanks again for coming by and for sharing so generously. Cheers (pun intended)!

  12. I agree with Joe the title is very catchy, and true. I have done this a few times when I had to write a paper in college. The results are case in point, I don’t think I have received anything less than 92%. Nice article!

  13. DrinkinPeople

    Is it too late to join in on the Viral Toast I loved the article as well and my glasses up to you DrinkinPeople

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén