It’s amazing to me how many of our practice building efforts involve writing. Blog posts. Website content. Articles for newspapers and magazines. Fliers. Patient forms. Letters. Facebook posts. Email newsletters. The list goes on.

Of course, we like that medium, but I don’t think that’s the whole picture. I see writing as crucial for any practice. From the signs on your walls to the content of your website, your clients are experiencing your practice not just through their interaction with you, but through the written word.

For some, though, the importance doesn’t matter – the empty page is still a source of dread. It’s too big, too hard, too overwhelming. Many a blog, website and newsletter never see the light of day because of that dread.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

I want to share with you our basic process for writing short-to-medium length content like a blog post or article. I’ve broken it into multiple steps for simplicity, but the truth is you can do all of these in a very short time. (Total time for this post: Under 40 minutes)

Before we get to the steps, though, two principles to carry along the way:

Aim for Short

Long is too hard, too scary, and too costly. Most of all though, people don’t read long – if anything, it scares them away. We think long because we spent years in school being taught to write a certain number of words instead of just trying to deliver the message. Time to start losing that programming.

If you’re struggling with getting started (or getting finished), help yourself by deciding that you never need to write more than three paragraphs. That’s it. You might write more, but don’t set yourself up for failure at the start.

Eliminate Yourself…at Least at First

One of the easiest mistakes to make is to talk about yourself and what you do when you really should be talking about other people’s problems and how to solve them. Yes, you do nutritional counseling. But there isn’t a client in the world who has a nutritional counseling problem. Nor do any of them have a gluten or lactose intolerance problem. They have digestive pains so severe they can’t work. Or a skin condition so bad they can’t go out in public.

If you struggle with this, try simply refusing to use words like “I”, or “we” or mentioning your tools or modalities in your first draft (more on first drafts below). Focus on the other person’s problem, and only mention what you do in the context of solving it.

Now for the writing. I’ve listed some rough times for this post, just to give you a sense that the process is actually fairly brief.

Step 1. The Outline – Put 1-3 Ideas on The Page (2 Minutes. Plus pondering over breakfast.)

I’m big on outlining. Once the actual writing starts, I’m easily distracted…oooh! shiny!…by other ideas. For this post, I wrote down six phrases to help with the first draft:

  • Short
  • Not about you
  • First draft free-flow
  • Wait
  • Rewrite
  • Help

That’s it: that was the skeleton. It changed a bit, as you can see, but that’s all you need to get started. If you have trouble with a skeleton, try this generic one to start:

  • A health complaint and its symptoms
  • What causes it
  • Solution(s)

Step 2. Write The No-Editing Allowed Draft (20 minutes)

Using your skeleton from above, just write a couple of sentences in each part of your framework. That’s it. If you need more, write it, but don’t be obsessed with quantity. Remember: short is usually better. Just fill in the blanks.

Also, do not edit what you’re writing. Give yourself permission to just free-flow it right from your brain to the page. Fear not: no one is going to see this draft. Get over it. :)

Step 3.Wait (Optional, 0 minutes)

Ideally, I’ll wait at least overnight after a first draft. I count that as zero time, because there’s no work involved.

What’s going on here is you’re creating a fresh perspective. A new set of eyes. It’s hard to rewrite and edit what you’ve just written. You can’t get a good sense of flow, and you skip over the same errors time and time again without seeing them.

So take a break. You don’t have to, but it’ll make your next step easier, and your final product far better.

Step 4. Rewrite (10 minutes)

With your fresh eyes and a good night’s sleep, take a spin through what you wrote. At this stage, I’m mostly looking for flow – does it make sense? Is there a clear idea? Is it useful?

This is where things start to stitch together. A clunky bunch of sentences starts to tell a story. You can’t write well without rewriting – don’t skip this part.

Step 5. Get Someone Else To Read It (Optional, 0 minutes)

It’s hard to see your own mistakes. Get someone to take a spin through and point out obvious errors and stuff that just doesn’t make sense.

Step 6. Polish (5 minutes)

Do a final tweak based on comments from step 5. Read through, do a spell check.

That’s it! Not counting the optional overnight waiting and your friend’s read through, you should be able to do a short piece in under an hour. If you want to go shorter and faster, you can use steps 1, 2, 4 and 6, and do even briefer post or email newsletter content in just 15 minutes.

The real key parts for moving forward, I think, are the outline and first draft. You need to give yourself permission to just go. Write it down like you’d say it aloud. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, or about self-editing. That voice in your head that’s saying, “You suck at writing,” is in everyone’s head at some point. Forget about it. It goes away as you work through the steps, and as you write more.

Writing is, like everything else, a skill. It’s a muscle that grows with exercise, and the stronger it gets, the more power it has. Give yourself a chance to build it up.

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3 Responses to “Growing Your Practice With Words: 6 Steps to Great Writing That Gets Done”

  1. Bonnie says:

    You are so correct in that we need to think more abut how our patients speak and write. I see this a lot with acupuncturists who feel a need to use terms like qi and yin and yang. While this is important when we talk as colleagues, it’s less important when talking to the patient. Even when the patients asks HOW it works, you can often see their eyes glaze if you the practitioner uses too much jargon. Many practitioners insist they can’t communicate effectively without those words. However, their patients aren’t understanding and don’t care to understand at that level. We really need to remember that our patients didn’t sign on to become alternative health practitioners. They signed on to get well.

  2. I’ve been pondering how to write a blog post for some time and I’ve finally come up with a subject so these tips on how to make the post accessible and a sales conversion tool are timely and helpful. Thanks.

  3. […] written about creating great content to market your practice. but we heard from people who felt they were stumbling before the start line–they […]

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