In Season 2 Episode 5, Lucy Mowatt speaks to podcaster, writer and marketer Michelle Gately about how to find content inspiration.
Whether you’re working on a blog, social media post, podcast or email, this podcast is packed with advice!
LM: Morning Michelle. How are you?
MG: Good morning. I’m well thank you.
LM: Great. It’s lovely to see you; bright and early.
MG: Yes, I know. As I said to you before you hit record, you’ve got my pre-exercised self, I’m sorry! It’s quite early in the morning and I honestly couldn’t be bothered. Working at home I couldn’t be bothered to do my makeup for this call. I need to do my exercise after.
LM: During lockdown and working from home, you don’t necessarily have to have the same morning routine as you used to.
MG: Yeah I mean you have to make the most of working at home and that’s a little joy that you can just roll out of bed before your meetings. So, I just love it.
LM: So before we get into talking about inspiration and marketing. Can you just tell us a little bit more about who you are and what it is you do?
MG: So I am a journalist. I’m from Australia, but I’ve been living in the UK for 2 years. I actually only have about 6 months of that working Visa left which is a little bit sad. But when we moved over here I kinda thought that I didn’t want to be working shifts anymore. As a journalist, I was working all hours and I think not a lot of people know that about journalism. Actually, if you work 7 days or 6 days a week at a newspaper you will be working weekends, you work Christmas, you work Easter. You will work all the damn time.
LM: Evenings, holidays…
MG: Yeah evenings. I mean we get two public holidays a year. Good Friday and Christmas day. Even then, one person drew the short straw and had to work on those. Yeah, very odd shifts. It might be 6am or you might not start until 2pm, so it’s very odd. Anyway, I’d had enough of that, I’d had enough of the environment of news and constantly striving for new subscribers and stuff. So, I thought I’d put that pressure on myself and make my own business where I’m constantly striving for clients. I kind of just did the same thing. I basically decided to turn what was my passion for blogging, because I’ve been blogging since about 2012. So I’ve been writing for a long time online and I’ve been podcasting for a while. So I thought I’ll turn this thing into a business. Now, I’m more than a year into that I feel quite solid in what I do, which is helping small business owners communicate with confidence online through their blogs and podcasts. It’s that online storytelling really where it’s telling the story of your brand and your business.
LM: Yeah, it sounds like you’ve had quite a year of learning and growing and developing. It sounds like a really exciting time.
MG: Yeah because when I started this I was very focused on ‘I’m a writer and I do writing and I will help people write better’. I was very focused on that and I didn’t realise podcasting wasn’t normal because it was such an obsession of mine. I’d made a few podcasts by that stage and thought it’s not easy but if I can do it, anyone can. When I started meeting other business owners, networking with them. Some of them would say something like “I want to start a podcast” and I’d say “I love podcasts, tell me about your idea”, it would just snowball from there.
LM: It sounds fantastic and it’s really inspiring. One of the reasons I wanted to speak to you about inspiration is because you’re encouraging me to actually sit down in front of the microphone and start speaking into it. So one of the reasons I wanted to speak to you is because you’re part of the reason this is even happening.
MG: That is very nice to hear, I love that.
LM: You said that storytelling is very much a part of what you do but where do you find the sort of inspiration for that storytelling content? Are there any go-to areas that you have?
MG: As corny as it sounds, literally just the world around you. When I started as a journalist, we were asked to present 4 story ideas a day. My boss was lovely and he said ‘one good idea but you probably need four ideas’. I think what that taught me was that you can’t just wait for inspiration to strike. There’s a lot that I’ve learnt about being a journalist and a lot I’ve learnt in a daily newspaper. That pressure has really prepared me for a lot of things in my life. The fact I can speak to you without any preparation, and talk off the cuff has been part of that.
You just need to come up with ideas. Ideas are everywhere and it’s just about looking for them. I always do research for my blog posts and when I was doing research I came across a quote from Steve Jobs who said ‘Creativity is just about making connections and making connections between things other people might’ve experienced. It’s everyday stuff. If you ask a creative person or someone you think is creative where they get their inspiration or why they’re creative, they won’t think they’ve done anything that spectacular because to them it’s just connections’. Steve Jobs is the reason we are able to do podcasts, and it’s just a connection isn’t it? We’ve had radio for years, it’s just a new format, it’s a new take on something. It can be discouraging sometimes. You think – ah everything has already been done before, but it’s just about figuring out a new way to do that. Every story has been told before, but it’s not been told in this particular way or with this particular character. That’s why we have hundreds of books coming out every year, thousands of books coming out every year. There is always some new take or a new way to put that same story formula.
I would be trolling Facebook for these story ideas. I was in a lot of hyper-local Facebook groups that I couldn’t wait to get out of but I had to wait until I quit the newspaper because I needed to be in them, just in case. People would post ridiculous things.
There were always stories with police and emergency services that circled in the newsroom. But it was also talking to people and having conversations sparks so many story ideas.
It’s about thinking about who you are writing for. It was easy writing for a newspaper because you could filter out ideas by knowing what people want to know. I was talking to my friend the other day about exercise and about PT sessions and thinking about when you are doing reps and thinking – this is horrible. She said – you know when you do it for a second time and it really hurts and you don’t think you can do it again, you don’t think you can build up the strength. I said that’s the same with writing. I immediately had this idea where that is the story idea, that is something you can talk about. It is just about learning to make those connections. It is like exercise. Creativity isn’t just a magical thing where some people are ordained with creativity. The other thing is the basic marketing sense: I ask my audience what problems they want solved and then I solve them.
LM: The analogy with exercise was exactly what I was thinking when you were describing it. It is a muscle, you do have to keep at it, and then the next time you come back to it, it will be so much easier. There are always times when people struggle, just like you would when you were training, sometimes it gets a bit harder. I think it’s a similar experience with you, there are always stories out there, it’s just about finding an angle. Sometimes it’s about always thinking about those connections, stop thinking about those ideas; go and have a shower or go for a run and then think actually that’s the idea.
MG: Yeah absolutely. Doing the washing up, trying to go to sleep or just doing the groceries. To step away from that and just live gives you those experiences where you might find you suddenly think- ‘i can talk about this idea as if it were exercise’ and suddenly you think ‘oh, yes’. It’s the fact that you stop and it’s the fact that you’re experiencing something new. That’s probably my best advice, to just get out and observe the world around you as well. In terms of writing advice as well, just watch what people do, because often we say A to B but we don’t explain if this is the journey they took or this is the emotion they expressed. Sometimes forget about the fact you have a deadline or that you need an idea. That pressure will kill an idea.
LM: You mentioned that if you were looking for an idea you would speak to your audience and ask them what they’re looking for. Do you have any recommendations to anyone that’s starting out and doesn’t have that audience?
MG: I think if you’re starting out and you’re talking about marketing specifically, then I would start by coming up with an idea of your ideal client and who you ideally would like to speak to and who you would like to attract. Then start thinking to yourself, what ideas do they have, what values do they hold and create content around that. Think about what would I have googled, what would I have wanted to find out. Then literally do the google search and have a look at what else comes up. You can have a look right at the bottom of Google to find out what other people search for. It gives you a bit of an idea of literally what other people are searching for, but that can spark some more ideas of a problem they want to solve – maybe I can start to address that. So you can start to speak to the people you want to attract. Obviously, it takes time, it’s not a fool-proof thing. It’s a good way to start narrowing down who you’re speaking to.
LM: Also, by knowing your audience you can know where they hang out online. You mentioned hyperlocal Facebook groups, well maybe you want to look at what your audience is talking about there. In those Facebook groups you can think about how you can help these people, what can you suggest or literally ask them if you’re a member of the group or if you’ve got a small audience on LinkedIn, asking your audience on social media as well.
MG: I do some work for an osteopath and I ask him – ‘what are your customers asking you, what are the most common injuries people have, what do they want from you’ take it out of the clinic space and put it on the blog. That’s what is displayed to anyone that comes to your website and it shows them that even before they book an appointment that you know what you’re talking about. You’re showing you’re more knowledgeable, especially if you’re the one that has the blog and your competitor doesn’t.
LM: Definitely. It’s a very good proof point.
So having spoken about that, do you ever suffer from writer’s block? Do you ever struggle to put pen to paper?
MG Yes, absolutely.
When you feel like you can come up with a lot of ideas and sometimes that happens when I have a lot of ideas, I will sit down and just write them all out on a piece of paper. I will have different sheets of paper for podcast episodes, blog post ideas, reels on Instagram and things like that.
The other thing is to go back and look at your most popular Instagram post for example and think – okay if I haven’t done a longer piece of content about this, do a blog post for example. How can I take this small Instagram post, how can I make it a bit bigger and that’s your idea. It’s about working out how to make it long enough to be a blog post. The other thing, this is why I love blogging because you can take your long blog post and think, okay how can I turn that into 5 Instagram captions for example – that sort of solves your block of posting on Instagram.
I definitely have times where I have writer’s block. You can have all the ideas that you definitely want but then you still feel blocked when you sit down to write. I think that sometimes stems from what you’re expecting of yourself. I’ve felt that before, I’ve had to write a short story for a university assignment, I had this brilliant idea and mapped it all out in my head and then sat down and thought – ah I don’t know how to start. It was the fear of‘ I don’t want it to be crap’ for me. But you know it’s going to be crap to start with, and it’s just breaking through the uncomfortable moment of knowing you are writing really bad stuff and you’re going to fix it later. I think a lot of us, myself included, get stuck in that stage where we’re like ‘I’ve got writer’s block’, but it’s actually just the fear of putting something crappy on the page. But we know we can come back and edit it later.
LM: I’m so glad you said that because I totally get that. Maybe once or twice a year I’ll have something I really want to write, I’ll get a commission for something that I’ll think – yes I can’t believe I’ve got this, so excited. I’ll be like – right map it all out, and then I’ll sit down and think okay, I don’t know how to start. I just don’t know how to put the words down. It’s so strange, I guess it is performance anxiety or something like that and I’m just so scared of it being rubbish.
MG: I think it’s often I find the things that you’re more excited about. Maybe because in your head you’re thinking- I’ve got something to prove now, so that’s when all the self-doubt creeps in. The thoughts of ‘I don’t know if I can do this, will they like it’, start to come up when you’re super excited about it. I would do that at work, as a journalist, I would do an interview and think that’s the most amazing interview ever and then I would just procrastinate for days, weeks, sometimes months on actually telling the story. I think it would be because there would be so many possible angles, it would just be too much. It would usually happen with human interest features where there’s no clear way of this is what the story is, I could start this story a million different ways. I was never one of those that would write the introduction last because our newspaper was a very storytelling focused newspaper. So I would think – if I start the intro this way, this is how I would structure the story but if I start it this other way then I could go a completely different way. Especially with features, I find that introduction really impacts how the rest of your story flows, so I would think I’d have to get that near-perfect first which doesn’t help with writer’s block. I would spend hours, when I could and I didn’t have other deadlines, doing stuff like going back and rewriting that one sentence, because that would dictate how the rest of everything flowed. I very rarely went back and changed that sentence.
LM: I’m going to confess, I have done something similar to that. I have mapped it all out and then come back and realised that’s not the angle and completely rewrite it, even with having already written this first draft. I will think I hate it and scrap it and come up with a much better angle. In some ways, it helps and it’s good to have gotten that out of my system, having done that rough first draft. I’m also then a lot more familiar with the content, so if it’s an interview with the dialogue we’ve had, it becomes a lot clearer and a lot more focused in my brain. So then a second draft actually comes a lot easier. I don’t know if that’s just me, and I know it’s a bit of a waste of time but actually, it does help my second draft.
MG: No it’s not a waste of time at all because it’s exactly what you said: you become more familiar with it, you worked out that wasn’t the angle.
I would have off days at work as well. That’s the thing as a journalist, you do have very off days but you still have to turn up and write a story and I would go in and say to my editor ‘can you just read this because I really don’t think it’s any good’. He once said to me (this is going to say really big-headed), even on your off days your stuff is really good, and I’d just think it’s really not my best work, I’m not feeling it today. Then he would say to me: ‘It’s absolutely fine, you’re putting way too much pressure on yourself.’
I think that’s the other thing as well, yes you can totally have writer’s block but when you work for a newspaper you just can’t: you have a deadline. So sometimes you have to accept in that situation that you might be writing something that’s less than perfect, and that’s fine because you’ve done your job, turned up, done your work, you’re getting paid for that. Sometimes you do just have to accept it but I guess when we are talking about our own blogs and things we have ultimate control over, maybe to some people that’s a creative project such as a story, you have no external overhead like ‘ you need to finish this now’. I think sometimes external pressure can actually be really good, at least for me, the journalist in me and you probably find this as well. External pressure is sometimes what I need, to make the diamond, I need to be under pressure.
LM: I went through a fallow period this time last year. I had loads of time to think about the content and the articles I was writing, and actually, I didn’t. What I needed was that deadline and what I’ve come to realise over the two years that I need to have a deadline. I need it to be close enough that it’s a pressure to make sure I actually sit down and do it and don’t agonise over the perfectionism and the detail, I just need to sit down and write. Otherwise, I will just faff, tweak and rewrite and never actually go anywhere.
MG: I’m the same. When I’m doing workshops and things like that I need to leave myself enough time to do it but not get too obsessed with putting too much information in. I need to know when to tear things back and when you’ve got a deadline you know – okay, don’t have time for this, don’t have time for this. When you have months to work on it you think – if I can just do this, it will make it better, I’ll just spend hours researching this because this will make it better. Actually, I need a deadline, I need a fast deadline as much as in that short period of time I will wonder why I’ve done that to myself. That’s actually what I need, I work really well under pressure.
LM: You were saying about having an editor but maybe having an accountability partner. Whether it be someone you work with but it’s something for yourself with your blog, for me with the podcasts it would be about booking in those podcasts to make me actually do them. It’s having someone you’re responsible to, even if it’s just your partner where you say- ‘i’m going to do this today, I’m going to do this by the end of the week’, you’ve got someone who holds you accountable because otherwise, it’s so easy to let those days, weeks and months pass without doing something that you said you were going to.
MG: Yeah, absolutely. I’m a big advocate for teaming up with someone else in the business. I have a business coach and she messaged me like ‘what do you want me to hold you accountable for this week? What do you want me to say on Friday? What do you want me to check in and say have you done this?’ That’s what I need.
I started to work with a personal trainer, not because I wanted to get insanely fit in lockdown or anything crazy like that, there are loads of free workouts on youtube – was I doing them, no. I need accountability knowing that at a certain time, on a certain day, I will be having a one-hour session and I have to turn up to that. Not only that but I have to keep doing exercises even when I really don’t want to. That, for me, is why I pay that money, to just hold me accountable.
LM: Yeah it’s funny that it’s come back round to the exercise analogy again.
MG: I’m obviously going to have to write something about this now because it keeps coming up and I keep bringing it into things, so clearly I’m going to have to make it work somehow.
LM: So there we go, that’s a connection that’s the result of having a conversation.
MG: Exactly. as well, have conversations when you’re stuck for ideas. You can always talk to your partner. Everyone knows when you teach someone about something as well, you become a bit more aware of it and understand it a bit better. For me to try and explain the theory I’m studying or arguing in my essay suddenly I would have this breakthrough and suddenly I would be like – ah okay yeah that’s what I want to do, that’s what I need to say. He’d be like- sure, so did I help you or?
LM: Sounding board isn’t it. It’s just having someone to literally just talk at in some respect just to get those ideas out of your brain and as you’re talking the connections start happening without you necessarily being conscious of it.
MG: Yeah, exactly, all the better if that person is in a similar line of business to you or a similarly creative person or if that person can give you a bit of feedback. I have messaged my writer friends and said I just don’t want to start writing this and they’ll come back with a little advice like – you know it’s going to be crap to start with, you just have to do it. Sometimes that tough love is like, yeah I know you’re right, I just have to do it.
LM: Actually that brings me onto one of the questions I wanted to ask you, lots of coaches and things say just start writing if you have writer’s block, just write. Do you think it is helpful? There are times when I think yeah that’s great and having a deadline I’ll just do it, and then there are other times where I’m like- this is really not helping me.
MG: So, I think it’s a bit of both. I think if you have a deadline obviously you just have to show up and do the work. Sometimes there are things in business and in life that, you know, sometimes I would turn up to work and think- I’m really not feeling it today. If you have that time and you don’t have that deadline pressure and you’re really not feeling it, then I actually would say step away sometimes. It’s like what we talked a bit about earlier, go have a shower, go and do the washing up or whatever, you are making those new connections.
In a longer-term sense, sometimes you have a really fallow period and you kind of need to take time to consume content because that helps you grow as a creative person. It helps you make those new connections, and also you can use that idea time to percolate a little bit more.
With my true crime podcasts, for example, I had the idea for that a year before I did it but nothing was really working with it. When I came back to it, I was a more experienced writer. I had made more connections which meant getting interviews was a lot easier. Some other things just sort of fell into place with it and I was in a better headspace to do it and I was more confident. I was a more confident interviewer and a more confident reporter and that helped with what eventually would become something I’m very proud of. I think, ‘gosh if I had done that a year earlier it would’ve just been crap compared to where I was a year later’.
If you have the space to stop and just consume, whether that’s your favourite TV show or it’s fiction. I obviously am an advocate for reading outside your comfort zone as well so for example I think if you’re trying to write a short story and it’s a particular genre- go and try a new genre, go try something completely different. I read a lot of contemporary realistic stories but every now and again I will just really want to read a crime thriller or something that’s really different, or some fun young adult books. It’s great because I’ve been dealing with some really heavy stuff in my writing.
You can also just consume things that you enjoy, and also things you don’t enjoy, you can be critical of the things you don’t enjoy.
I know a lot of people say- ‘don’t consume’. There is a point where you have to switch off and focus on your own work and not think – oh god look at all the books on my bookshelf written by amazing women, you know I would love to write like that, I’ve got to make it that perfect. You do have to switch off at some point, but there is a lot to be said for revisiting a book you read as a kid or a classic. I’m not a big classics fan, I just find them very intimidating. Revisiting that stuff and revisiting TV shows or watching something amazing like Fleabag where you think: This is so perfect.
LM: There’s something I did as an exercise in the second year of my literature degree and it’s not something I do now but I think it applies to TV, podcasts, or anything you can consume. What is it you like or dislike, you know why? What is it about the tone of the dialogue in this film that you don’t like? What is it about the story, the way the story develops in this novel? What is it about this article that really grips you? Is it the story of the person? Is it their lived experiences? Just take 5 minutes at the end to analyse anything that you do or don’t like.
MG: I 100% agree. You need to consume bad art as well. If you’re reading a book and you really don’t like it, I’m all for abandoning it, you don’t have to finish every book that you read. But- ask yourself why. Is it because you didn’t care about the character? What would you have done differently? If you’re writing fiction, for example, how can you make sure your character, even if they’re not likeable, is relatable somehow to your audience?
I’ve always critically consumed, you can still consume something and think – that was amazing, I have no other words, but then ask what is it they do that was so incredible? I’ve been watching Downton Abbey recently with my partner and I have also been reading The Science of Storytelling by Will Storr, which I highly recommend. He looked at character, the basic character art and the way that our brain loves storytelling, and he talked about developing all these backstories to your characters and stuff. I watched Downton Abbey again and I just thought – oh my god Julian Fellowes has done such an amazing job. Every single, from minor to major character has this complete backdrop and this complete story art that by the end of the six seasons, I was just like – how does he keep that all, like does he have a spreadsheet that says, this is what’s going to happen? I want to know more about it and that’s an example of two completely different things but once you combine that non-fiction knowledge thinking that you’ve done you combine that with practice and actually seeing it happen. You’re like – oh that makes so much more sense now, I get it and I want to write like that. So, you’ve gotta consume good art, you’ve gotta consume bad art, you’ve gotta consume mediocre art as well. You’ve gotta be like: hmm well this didn’t work for me because duh duh duh.
LM: It doesn’t have to be a project or exercise. I find it’s something I do almost unconsciously now. I’ve been watching The Green Gambit on Netflix, which is absolutely amazing. I highly recommend it. It’s just how the characters are developed, they’re not stereotyped, they’re not cliches. It might tether on stereotypes at some point but it never goes too far into that, it subverts the expectations that I had when the characters were first introduced. I’m like, ah, this is going to be what happens with this character. It’s not something I’m conscious of but as I’m sitting there watching it, as we get to the end of the episode, me and my other half will address it and we’re like: oh these things didn’t happen as we thought. It’s not a conscious thing, but we are analysing it without even realising we’re doing it.
MG: Yeah, absolutely. Even things like when something isn’t working for example I know The Crown’s come out on TV, I know people are binging at the moment, I’m saving an episode to watch one at a time as a treat to get into what is a very busy week. I’ve had people say, no I’ve watched 5 episodes in a day or whatever, but I know the last season is quite slow.
I was reading this brilliant article, it was actually a podcast transcript from co schedule and Andrew Davies the guy they interviewed said – look at reality TV shows as an example of content that puts people in and they create enough of a curiosity that they keep you watching, even if you’re like – this is absolute crap why am I watching this. They keep switching between things, they keep that reveal up to create enough of a curiosity that you have to keep watching. He mentioned The Crown and that being something they didn’t do, they didn’t keep enough of a curiosity that you were like – I just have to keep watching and find out what happens. I still watched it because I’m invested and I think it’s a beautifully filmed series and I wanna see what happens. But there is no incentive to keep binge-watching it.
LM: It’s not Tiger King, where you’re like: oh my god, what crazy thing is going to happen next?
MG: Yeah! Tiger King is a good example. I watched it, I consumed it, I binged it and then afterwards I was like: hmm actually there was probably actually a lot of problematic things with the way that was done. As a journalist, you see a lot of problematic things. You think: I probably wouldn’t have done that, why did this make me feel uncomfortable? But at the time, I was like – oh my god next episode, next episode, next episode.
LM: Did that make you feel dirty, like a bit icky?
MG: Yeah, definitely some ethical dilemmas there I think.
LM: Apart from that, do you have any other exercises that you maybe would go to, to overcome – we’ve covered a lot of tips – are there any exercises about writing headlines and writing multiple versions would you recommend doing something like that to just get yourself moving?
MG: Yes absolutely, so that actually comes from, I’m pretty sure his name is Tim Hurston? The basics is, his book is all about creativity and I haven’t read it but co-schedule had broken it down, of this idea of the ‘third third’. The first third is this idea that the first ten ideas are quite like, you know – everyone’s done it, so if you’re looking for an angle that’s probably the stuff that everyone’s done.
The second third is when you start to move a little bit beyond that. Then the third third is when you really find something that you meet fresh and a new perspective. So if you are trying to train that idea muscle as well there is another quite well-known writer in that online space who says: write ten ideas every day, you never have to use them, they don’t have to be good. But the idea is to get your brain sort of ticking over, a bit like doing ten push-ups every day. Eventually you’re going to get better.
You’re going to come up with some really bad ideas, you’re going to struggle to do the push-up but eventually, you’re going to get good ideas in there as well, and it’s just training yourself if you’re like- I have to write ten ideas down, they can be crap, but I have to write ten ideas. It forces you to go beyond the very obvious surface-level things and starts looking for the exercise analogy to explain content creation as an example. It just forces you to make more connections.
Then the other thing I’m actually going to be asking students to do when we do some workshops tonight is to look at an idea for a blog post that you have if it’s about marketing and look at 3 or 4 different things that have happened in your life, in the last month for example, that you could use as an analogy to explain the concept that you’re trying to get across in your marketing. I think even with product-based businesses with blogging you want to get how your product is going to fit into someone’s life, how is it going to make their life better for example. So, what are things that have happened in your life that you can bring into that experience? What that does is, first of all, get you looking for those everyday connections with things like going to Tesco, it’s not interesting at all, everybody does it but the fact everybody does it, makes it relatable and if you can somehow use that, it is going to be relatable. I think what that does as well, is take your blog, if that’s what you’re writing, beyond ‘this is ten tips to writing content’. It takes it beyond that a little bit, it makes it a bit more unique and also the best thing – it brings your personality into it. The fact that, if you’re a small business owner, that is what sets you apart from the big companies that are doing whatever your industry is about. If you can just go back and mine your everyday experiences you’ll probably find that – that’s the exercise analogy we’ve been making all the way through. There’s a lot of very ordinary stuff that you actually think – I can apply that. The idea of that exercise is that you don’t have to follow through with any of those ideas, but sitting down and thinking – what could I actually say that maybe applies to this concept that I’m trying to get across in my article? I think you did that beautifully – that feature that you wrote with us talking about podcasting, the way you turned that into what you were doing and how that helps you. I think it’s such an interesting way into an idea. I was thinking as a journalist – oh my god I wish I could write like that.
LM: I am going to confess, that was the second draft. The first one I did, the angle I did – there just wasn’t one actually, I was just regurgitating.
MG: And that was just another – tips on how to do this, but you found a story in it. Using those storytelling techniques is so important. I’m doing some workshops and part of that is about how to use storytelling in your blog and recognising those storytelling things, like the curiosity gap. Doing that in your marketing is really important.
Those are my main tips, and I would recommend too that if people haven’t read this book already I would recommend Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller. That is obviously about your brand marketing as a whole and how storytelling can be used in all your messages. Then you can take elements of that and apply it to your blog posts. I think it’s a really good breakdown of – what a story is and then how to apply that to your business as a whole, your whole brand message. Once you have that knowledge, you can easily apply it to other elements of your business. It’s so good, I highlighted so many bits, underlined so many bits, taking so many notes. I highly recommend that.
LM: I’ll have to check it out. My go-to is- Stephen King’s On Writing, because although it’s about fiction, he talks about getting that everyday practice of writing 1000 words, setting yourself a task and keeping the exercise moving.
MG: I love that book too. I think that the part of the memoir book shows is that we look at this man and think – oh my god he’s so successful, but we forget that he had years of writing in a caravan.
LM: It’s the grind.
MG: Yes it’s the daily grind of writing lots of bad stuff, not earning much money and now he’s Stephen King, you know, it didn’t come from nowhere. He didn’t get that success overnight.
I actually did a sum-up of six things that I learnt from writing. Part of that was to be more direct in your writing style as well. Even though I would be direct as a journalist I think if I was writing fiction that I would be flowery and I’d try and show off. I’ve definitely realised that is not the way to show off and in fact, it does look a bit silly. I think I’m more of the King and Hemingway tool keeping it really really simple.
LM: I can’t remember if it was David oval or something like that but he said it’s really hard to be concise – maybe it was Benjamin Franklin – it’s really easy to write 1000 words, but it’s really hard to write those thousand words down into 10, be concise and not flowery and relatable. It’s actually really difficult.
MG: There’s that famous Ernest Hemingway quote: ‘The saddest story you’ll ever hear is just six words: “baby shoes for sale, never worn”.’ It takes 6 words and it’s such a beautiful way of expressing that actually you can have a lot of these emotions but that doesn’t come from nowhere. I had such a great conversation with you this morning, it’s fantastic.
Before we go – I have one last question. Where can listeners find out more about you?
So, my website is: theunfinishedbookshelf.com and my Instagram where you’ll find me most is @unfinishedbookshelf.
Thank you so much for coming on, it’s been an absolute pleasure chatting to you.
Thank you so much!