Life is tough right now. Just to be still standing after last year is a big achievement. So many hard decisions, so much effort keeping spirits up and companies afloat. Even if you and your business have found a way through relatively unscathed, it’s still hard to feel positive when you’re surrounded by so much loss, fear and uncertainty.
How can we ensure we continue to find the light in the gloom? What can we do to get us and our businesses through to the other side?
We’ve both read a lot on psychology and the science of happiness since the pandemic hit. What strikes us is that so much of the current wisdom on wellbeing – be present and pay attention in the moment, reflect on the positive and lessons learned, do stuff for others, connect with people, don’t bottle things up, talk about what you’re feeling – is reflected in the practice of writing.
Personal journaling is a well documented practice for boosting wellbeing, but how about business writing – blogging, email newsletters, regularly sharing valuable content with your clients and community? Can the simple act of writing for your business make you happier, and keep you sane too?
Much has been published, by us and others, on the hard business benefits of blogging. Sharing your knowledge and expertise really is the best way we know to pull more of the right work towards you, even now, with plenty of evidence to prove it. Much less has been said about the softer benefits. If we’re honest, although we’ve certainly felt these personal benefits over the years, we haven’t really reflected on them until now.
It was a few insightful comments from our clients and students that first woke us up to this possibility. Then we put out a call on social media to ask if others were feeling similar personal therapeutic benefits from writing for their businesses in Covid times too. Here’s what we heard.
If you need a bit of motivation and encouragement to get going or keep up the momentum on your content this year, these stories are for you.
The joy in writing for your business
Maisie Allen – Writing always makes me feel more positive
“At the start of the first lockdown, I wasn’t feeling great about the future of my business. I run a dog boarding and walking service which took a huge dive when people stopped going on holiday and first started working from home.
I decided to put my efforts into developing my service, and communicating what I do better. I worked on my website and started to send regular communications out to my clients and contacts. I set up a blog and kicked off a seasonal newsletter, sharing posts regularly on Instagram and Facebook too.
Working on my content always makes me feel more positive. Even if I put it off and feel like it won’t be worth it! As soon as I get the motivation, I find it then seems to naturally flow. And it makes me feel like I’m moving in a positive direction with what I do. What’s more, it works too – the business is in a really good place and the enquiries are coming in. I feel a lot more upbeat, despite everything.”
>> Maisie runs Muddy Paws, in the beautiful Mendip Hills: www.lovemuddypaws.co.uk.
Andrea P. Howe – It’s a special kind of journaling
“Sharing tips and best practices through my blog and subscription service over the last five years has done great things for my business. But it has done great things for me too.
I realized recently after a pandemic-related hiatus that the practice helps me make sense of things, process my feelings, and get/keep perspective. It also helps me keep my focus on what really matters, which is no small feat in our current reality.
I now think of writing my weekly missives as a special kind of journaling—a welcome source of support for me and hopefully others too in tumultuous times.”
>> Andrea is founder of the Get Real Project and co-author of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook: thegetrealproject.com.
Jo Twiselton – Writing helps me make sense of what’s going on
“The process of creating and writing blog posts has absolutely helped me to make sense of what’s been going on. I was starting to write more blog posts during 2019 and had planned to do more (and start a newsletter in 2020). I didn’t want to use writing as a distraction to avoid what was going on around me. But, particularly in the first few weeks of the pandemic and lockdown, writing for work helped me to shape my thoughts and think about things from different perspectives.
I started free-writing too which was a new thing – it’s become a new habit too. I now start the day just writing down anything in my head (not necessarily work stuff) and end the day by wrapping up the day with a few notes (and gratitude too).
I’m convinced this is one of the things that helped me to get through 2020.”
>> Jo Twiselton is a specialist in organisational change: https://www.twistconsultants.co.uk.
Henneke Duistermaat – Writing is a craft and an act of defiance
“In the past year, it felt at times almost impossible to write. But I’ve learned that there’s always a way to write, and it’s worth it—even if it takes longer than usual.
Writing for me is an important way to connect, and focusing on connecting is what has kept me writing. This is especially true for writing my blog but even writing social media updates has proven fruitful. It felt good to reach out to people (like when sharing virtual hugs). We’re all human, we’re all struggling.
There is also inherent joy in the act of writing because there’s joy in any craft. There’s joy in producing something new that didn’t exist before. In this way, writing is an act of defiance for me. Despite everything, I can find joy in creating. Getting into the flow of writing also helps me put my worries aside, no matter what I’m writing about.
“Writing for me is an important way to connect, and focusing on connecting is what has kept me writing.”
I’m not a journal writer but I still find a therapeutic value in writing. I mostly write to teach writing but I’ve also ventured outside my field and wrote last year about letting go of worries, and in my year-end review, sharing what I’ve learned has helped me make sense of the world. Writing more personal posts makes me feel more strongly connected with my readers. It’s as if we’re all less alone when we share our troubles and lessons.
At times I’ve felt powerless and I wondered whether there was any value in our writing. But writing has helped me focus on what’s in my power and what I can do to support myself and others.”
>> Henneke is a writer and teacher. You’ll find her super helpful blog and writing courses at www.enchantingmarketing.com
Jim O’Connor – I blog because it feels good
“Blogging as therapy? Great question.
That’s how I started. Not because I wanted to build my business, become a thought leader or get the ego boost of lots of followers. I just read a lot of xxxx that others were writing about advertising and marketing that wound me up. I found myself ranting in my own head, which was very unhealthy. So I just started by putting my thoughts on paper to stop myself from going crazy. When people started commenting, and mostly agreed with what I was saying, I was pretty surprised. I’ve carried on because it felt good, not because I had any business objective.
Apart from being beneficial for my mental health it has helped me get my thoughts into some better order. I think this has helped me get better at what I do (because it helps to have a clear idea of what you are trying to do). It certainly acted as a stepping stone to writing my book. It has also helped me build hundreds of online connections, which has been a huge help and pleasure in a year of enforced lockdowns and isolation. I’m now revisiting a book I started to write 30 years ago. I might not have done that if I hadn’t spent the last few years blogging.
The copywriting stuff I do for clients is pretty ephemeral. But when I’m writing a blog post it now feels slightly more important. To say that blogging has given my life purpose would be a huge overstatement…but it has helped me overcome my inherent cynicism and stay one step ahead of the sense of apathy that was slowly creeping up on me.
Finally, Valuable Content – yourself and Sharon – has helped me realise that the value is often more for the writer than the reader.”
>> Jim O’Connor is a copywriter. You can read his ideas at Stories That Sell www.storiesthatsell.co.uk
John Dalgarno – It stimulates the grey cells
“I do a range of writing and for me it is the creative process that gives me a lot of pleasure. The feedback that you get is very stimulating and encouraging. The positivity is a boost. Working with my son Tom, means that on some videos he and I visualise the script to create a storyboard. This stimulates the grey cells.”
> John Dalgarno, Ideas Enabler for Tom Dalgarno Creative Video – Engaging Video Production
Ben McKinney – Writing grounds you (and your business)
“I would imagine I am like a lot of business owners – SO busy, often with jobs that are important but unsatisfying. There are always several things bouncing around my head at any one time. It’s so hard to focus. But when you write for your business, it helps you work out where you’re currently at and where you want to be.
Writing grounds you (and your business). It gives you a voice and sets out your stall by making people aware of what you’re about, what you stand for. When your writing is thoughtful and considered, the vulnerability you might feel as an individual doing the writing actually seems to draw people in. And it’s rewarding when people begin to read and respond to you as a person, not just as a business that’s trying to sell something.”
>> Ben McKinney is a copywriter, and a window cleaner too: www.benmckinney.co.uk.
Mark House – Light in a dark world
“I write every day on my 2 passions, Leadership and Music. I am up to 300 in a row… starting in March when the world was falling apart…… and I knew I couldn’t fix that, and could only manage my own well being, and hopefully provide a light in a very dark world.
This practice has indeed helped me. The everyday “what am I feeling (checking in), how do I express it (what is the universal story), who helped me (gratitude), and then how do I bend that into a song/group etc… well that type of mental chess soaks up all the cycles that could be consumed with the news, the issues around us, etc… I bounce through lots of topics, musical genres, and that has also helped my natural curiosity.”
>> Mark House, Managing Partner, Empowering Leaders. His blog on Leadership and Music is here: leadingwithmusic.com
Madalina Constantin – A great distraction from my own worries
“When the first lockdown hit, I began to pull together ideas and content in the newsletters I was sending, including information about the pandemic, the virus, how to protect ourselves physically and mentally, alongside with other regular stuff.
Besides of the fact that this information was the most popular, I discovered that it was helping me too, bringing order to my thoughts and emotions in the difficult times that the pandemic presented (and still does). I found that is was a way to distract myself from my own worries too.
In the end I believe that when we help others, we help ourselves first. I like to think that this is valid not just for the writing purposes.”
>> Madalina is a content marketer and CIM Chartered Marketer in Romania. Her website: contentworks.ro.
David Gilroy – A way to park negative emotions and prepare for what’s next
“When COVID-19 kicked off in March 2020 we all knew it was going to be life-changing for everyone in business. I also knew that my mantra of “We all have perfect memory, but sh*t recall” was never going to be more true. So on Sunday 22 March 2020 I sat down at my desk at home to write about the previous week. As soon as I started writing I realised that I was not only doing it to make sure it was ‘recorded’ but found the very act of writing incredibly cathartic. The act of writing allowed me to ‘park’ all the emotions from the week before and steel myself for those that were going to arrive the following week. I did it for eight weeks in a row until I felt we were at the point when each week was just like the last.”
>> David Gilroy is MD of Stuff and Things at Conscious Solutions: www.conscious.co.uk
Commit to writing and feel better
That’s how it works for others. It works for us too. We write to make sense of what’s going on, to make connections, to understand our perspective, to work out what’s scaring us. That’s the soul baring part of the therapy. Write it all down and you take control of it. Worries on a tiny scrap of paper are never as big as worries in the limitless ranges of your own head.
But there’s also positive forward-thinking writing. The side that puts the problems aside and dreams and plans and creates. The joyful writing that takes the spark of an idea and goes for a walk with it to see where it takes you. That kind of writing can bring an idea to life and make it real. Write your way into the future you want, and your own words can pull you there.
Writing and sharing valuable content is a powerful habit, and it’s a way to steer through all this relentless unsettling uncertainty.
It’s a positive act, at a time when so many positive soul cheering things are out of reach. We can’t see family, we can’t go out and eat in restaurants, or go to the theatre, or the gym, or even just go and sit on a friend’s sofa for half an hour and chat about everything and nothing. But we can still write.
Writing likes you to spend time sitting still in one place. Writing needs you to just shut up and write. Writing was made for pandemic times.
Choose to build pockets of writing into your life and you’ll leave yourself less time for worrying and doom scrolling. Writing can be a radical act of self-care. A way to protect yourself, and make you better able to look after the people around you.
Focus on the positive act, and the positive feelings will follow.
If you’d like more help and encouragement with your content, and you like the idea of online group writing sessions, check out our Content Writing Club (currently hosted on Sharon’s website, as we build the new School of Valuable Content site).
[Massive thanks to all those who answered our call on social media for the feedback.]