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7 Habits Of A Good Writer: Develop Quality Content Your Audience Adores

7 Habits Of A Good Writer: Develop Quality Content Your Audience Adores

If writing was easy, we would all be best-selling authors by now. Whether you’re a career author or an aspiring blogger, I invite you to consider these 7 habits of a good writer so you can develop quality content that your audience adores.

1. It’s not about you, it’s about them.

Before you even begin to write, you should ask yourself the following questions:

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  • Who am I writing for and what exactly do they struggle with?
  • How am I going to help them through that struggle?
  • Why do I want to help them? (hint: this is the most important one)

The best way to illustrate this habit is by example, so here’s how I would answer these questions: I write books for busy women who desire to lose fat and get fit so they can feel healthier and happier. They struggle with negative thoughts and limiting beliefs that make it difficult to find the motivation to begin a healthy living plan. I will help them by guiding them in the direction of increased self-confidence and mental strength, which will help them overcome the Mental Monsters they face every day. I want to help women specifically, because I have personally struggled with body-image issues, emotional eating, and low self-esteem myself. While men do face these struggles, they are far less likely to admit it (much less read a book about it), so I’d rather focus my attention on women since that is where I can make the greatest impact as a writer.

Who are you writing for? How are you going to help them? Why do you want to help them? Know the answers to these questions if you want to connect with your ideal audience; otherwise, you might find yourself performing for an empty house.

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2. Brevity is the soul of wit.

The above saying, popularized by Mr. William Shakespeare, is something you should apply today. Do not interpret this to say you shouldn’t write a full-length novel epic in proportion;  however, if you are adding content for the sole purpose of increasing your word count, I’m afraid you might find yourself with all fluff and no substance.

3. Condense, condense, condense.

When you have completed your blog, article, or book I encourage you to walk away from your finished project for at least a few hours (maybe even a few days). Look at it again with a fresh perspective and you’ll probably discover words and sentences that add little or no meaning to your work of art. If it doesn’t need to be there, cut it without mercy. The more quickly you can make your point, the more powerful it will be.

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4. Analyze your competition before you start.

If you’re writing a book about how to become a successful freelance blogger, you should look up other books about that very subject on Amazon before you write a single word. Find the most highly-rated books in that niche and check out the reviews. What did people like the most about this book? Don’t rip-off their ideas, because nobody likes a copycat, but do seek inspiration wherever you can find it. Also, pay attention to the negative reviews, because if you see a common theme in the criticisms, you’ll have an advance heads-up telling you what to avoid in the publishing of your book. You might want to buy a few of the top-rated books in your niche while you’re at it for inspiration that might steer you in the right direction.

5. Talk to (not at) your audience.

Have you ever read a self-help book that was helpful, but you felt like they were talking in words that were over your head, as if they were speaking a different language (I’m talking to you, Stephen Covey!)? If you don’t consider the language your audience speaks, you could elicit the same reaction. Buy magazines that are targeted to your audience and do a little research. For example, if you write for women, you would be wise to buy a few issues of Women’s Health or Shape. Pay attention to the language used in articles and advertisements and decide how you can apply this style to your writing (while maintaining your own unique voice). Your reader should feel like they are having a friendly chat with you over coffee. Unless you’re in the business of writing dry technical manuals, the more conversational your writing, the better.

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6. Feedback is your friend.

Wanna know a dirty secret that helped me craft a book that was so contagious it has now been read by over 20,000 people in 3 short months? My audience wrote it for me. I don’t mean that literally, because that would make me a dirty plagiarizing thief, but it isn’t far from the truth. During the writing process, I would post brief excerpts from my book on my Facebook page to see how they did in terms of interaction (i.e. likes, shares, and comments). This allowed me to quickly identify which ideas were winners and losers. If an excerpt exploded in interaction, I developed that idea further and made sure to highlight it in every way I could. If an excerpt didn’t do so well, this meant it needed to be modified, condensed, or cut. Assuming you have an audience of readers, you might consider giving away advance copies of your book in exchange for honest feedback. Just make sure you actually ask detailed questions like:

  • What did you think was most and least helpful?
  • Are there any sections that seemed out-of-place or beside the point?
  • Did anything seem like it was lacking in detail and needed to be fleshed out in more detail?
  • How do you think this book could be more interesting, helpful, and relevant?

While performing this process requires time and patience, it will greatly enhance the quality and relevance of your work. There is no better editor than the audience you are writing for, so let them help you make your work as powerful as possible. You could even ask them if they’d be willing to leave a review for your book as soon as you’re done, increasing the odds that browsers will consider it a worthy investment.

7. Always produce.

If you are an aspiring writer, the best advice I can give you is this: the only way to get better at writing is to write. People often tell me things like, “I’d love to put a blog out there, but I just don’t think I’m good enough yet.” I know putting your content out there for public consumption is scary, but it’s best to swallow your fear and click “Publish.” The sooner you become comfortable with the fact that not everyone will like your work, the better. Everybody is a critic and there is nothing you can do to change that. And besides, while you could receive some comments that are unnecessarily nasty, others might offer valuable feedback that will help you improve your craft. If you have a hard time finding the time or interest in writing, click here to check out the ultimate writing productivity resource.

Writers: What would you add to this list?

To help the aspiring creative types reading this, I invite you to drop a comment listing any additional habits of a good writer that you feel would be useful. I’d also love to hear questions from aspiring writers who haven’t developed the courage to begin: what is holding you back and how can I help?

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Daniel Wallen

Daniel is a writer who focuses on blogging about happiness and motivation at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on March 15, 2019

How to Be a Leader Who Is Inspiring and Influential

How to Be a Leader Who Is Inspiring and Influential

When I began managing people 15 years ago, I thought having a fancy title was synonymous with influence. Over time, I learned that power is conferred based on likeability, authenticity, courage, relationships and consistent behavior. When leaders cultivate these attributes, they earn power, which really means influence.

Understanding influence is essential to professional growth, and companies rise and fall based on the quality of their leadership.

In this article, we will look into the essentials of effective leadership and how to be a leader who is inspiring and influential.

What Makes a Leader Fail?

A host of factors influence a leader’s ability to succeed. To the extent that leaders fail to outline a compelling vision and strategy, they risk losing the trust and confidence of their teams. Employees want to know where a company is going and the strategy for how they will get there. Having this information enables employees to feel safe, and it allows them to see mistakes as part of the learning journey versus as fatal occurrences.

If employees and customers do not believe a company’s leadership is authentic and inspiring, they may disengage, or they may be less inclined to offer constructive criticism that can help a company innovate or help a leader improve.

And it is not just the leadership at the top that matters. Middle managers play a distinct role in guiding teams. Depending on the company’s size, employees may have more access to mid-level managers than they do members of the C-suite, meaning their supervisors and managers have greater influence on the employee and the customer experience.

What Is Effective Leadership?

Effective leadership is inspiring, and it is influential. Cultivating inspiring and influential leaders requires building relationships across the company.

Leaders must be connected to both the teams they lead as well as to their own colleagues and managers. This is key as titles do not make a person a leader, nor do they automatically confer influence. These are earned through trusting relationships. This explains why some leaders can get more out of their teams than others and why some leaders experience soaring profits and engagement while others sizzle out.

Eric Garton said in an April 25, 2017, Harvard Business Review article:[1]

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“… inspiring leaders are those who use their unique combination of strengths to motivate individuals and teams to take on bold missions – and hold them accountable for results. And they unlock higher performance through empowerment, not command and control.”

How to Be an Inspiring and Influential Leader

To be an inspiring and influential leader requires:

1. Courage

The late poet Maya Angelou once said,

“Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.”

Courage is required in the workplace when implementing new strategies, especially when they go against professional norms.

For instance, I heard Lisa TerKeurst, bestselling author and founder of Proverbs 31 Ministries, explain her decision to move away from her company’s magazine. While the organization had long had a magazine, she saw a future where it didn’t exist.

In order to make the switch, she risked angering her team members and customers. She took a chance, and what started out as a monthly newsletter, has grown into a multi-dimensional organization boasting half a million followers. Had Lisa not found the courage to change the direction of her organization, they undoubtedly would not have been able to experience such exponential growth.

It also takes courage to give and receive feedback. When leaders see employees who are not living into the company’s mission or who are engaging in behavior that may undermine their long-term success, one must risk temporary angst and speak candidly with the colleague in question.

Similarly, it takes courage to hear constructive criticism and try to change. In business, as in life, courage is necessary for being an inspiring and influential leader.

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2. A Commitment to Face Your Internal Demons.

If you feel great about yourself, enter a leadership position. You are likely to be triggered in ways you didn’t think possible. You are also likely to receive feedback that may leave you second-guessing yourself and your leadership skills.

The truth about leading others is that you get to a point where you realize that it is difficult to take people to places where you yourself haven’t gone.

To be an influential and inspiring leader, you have to face your own demons and vow to continually improve. Influential leaders take their personal evolution serious, and they invest in coaching, therapy and mindfulness to ensure that their personal struggles do not overshadow their professional development.

3. A Willingness to Accept Feedback

Inspiring and influential leaders are not afraid to accept feedback. In fact, they actively solicit it. They understand that everyone in their life has a lesson to teach them, and they are willing to accept it.

Inspirational leaders understand that feedback is neither good nor bad but rather an offering that is critical to growth. Even when it hurts or is an affront to the ego, influential leaders understand that feedback is critical to their ability to lead.

4. Likability

Some people will argue that leaders need not worry about being liked but should instead focus on being respected. I disagree. Both are important.

When team members like their boss and believe their boss likes them, they are more likely to go the extra mile to fulfill departmental or organizational goals. Likable leaders are moved to the front of the line when it comes to being influential.

Relatedly, when colleagues feel management dislikes them, they experience internal stress and can spend unnecessary time focusing on the source of their manager’s discontent versus the work they have been hired to do.

So, likability is important for both the leader and the people she leads.

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5. Vulnerability

Vulnerability is critical for being an inspiring leader. People want the truth. They admire leaders who can occasionally demonstrate vulnerability. It promotes deeper relationships and inspires trust.

When leaders can showcase vulnerability appropriately, they destroy the illusion that one must be perfect to be a leader. They also demonstrate that vulnerability is not a dirty word; they too can be vulnerable and ask for a helping hand when necessary.

6. Authenticity

Authenticity is about living up to one’s stated values in public and behind closed doors.

Influential leaders are authentic. They set to live out their values and use those values to guide their decisions. The interesting thing about leadership is that people are not looking for perfect leaders. They are, in part, looking for leaders who are authentic.

7. A True Understanding of Inspiration

Effective leaders are inspirational. They understand the power of words and deeds and use both strategically.

Inspiring leaders appropriately use stories and narratives to enable the teams around them to see common situations in an entirely new light.

Inspirational leaders also showcase grit and triumph while convincing the people around them that success and victory are attainable.

Finally, inspiring leaders encourage the teams they lead to tap into their own genius. They convince others that genius is not reserved for a select few but that most people have it in them.

As explained in the article True Leadership: What Separates a Leader from a Boss:

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“A leader creates visions and motivates team members to work together towards the same goal.”

8. An Ability to See the Humanity in Others

Inspiring and influential leaders see the humanity in others. Rather than treating their teams as mere tools to accomplish organizational goals, they believe the people around them are unique beings with inherent value.

This means knowing when to pause to address personal challenges and dispelling with the myth that the personal is separate from the professional.

9. A Passion for Continual Learning

Inspiring and influential leaders are committed to continual learning. They invest in their own development and take responsibility for their professional growth.

These leaders understand that like a college campus, the workplace is a laboratory for learning. They believe that they can learn from multiple generations in the workplace as well as from people from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Influential leaders proactively seek out opportunities for learning.

The Bottom Line

No one said leadership was easy, but it is also a joy. Influencing others to action and positively impacting the lives of others is a reward unto itself.

Since leadership abounds, there is an abundance of resources to help you grow into the type of leader who inspires and influences others.

More Resources About Effective Leadership

Featured photo credit: Markus Spiske via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: How to Be an Inspiring Leader

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