Writing is a creative thing. It’s often the reason as an accountant you think you’re not a writer (or not a good writer) – as if you have to “be creative” to be a writer.
The fact is, every human being is creative. And accountants are no exception. You’ve got creativity within you just as any person does, although it’s important to remember creativity (by its very nature) comes out differently for different people. One person may be creative with paint; one with ideas; one with woodworking; one with words.
But the role of accountant confuses creativity in your mind. Your training and other people’s comments and your own beliefs about yourself, can result in your believing you’re not creative. Not a writer. And no point really trying.
Just because you’re not a photographer doesn’t mean you aren’t creative. And just because you’re an accountant doesn’t mean you aren’t a writer – or can’t become one. You may not be a writer in the way you thought a writer might be, but anyone can write.
And when it comes to writing, or any type of creativity, every human being struggles in the same way: being “in the mood”.
This is confused by times when you have been in the mood. You got a brilliant idea or were really frustrated or inspired, and you just started typing or writing and it flowed out. It may have been on a Saturday evening or a Wednesday morning or whilst on a train or in the middle of a conference. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, you think: it just happened, and it flowed out. Whether it was a blog or an article or a social media post, you actually got a lot of good responses from it. People responded to your writing and you felt pleased. You might have even gotten some business from it.
But that was then, and this is today. You’ve got client emails to write and phone calls to return and people to hire and new apps to integrate and systems to set up … and that’s just in the business. Let’s not even think about everything you’re not doing in the house or wherever else. You may even have a list of blog topics you could write, but you have so much to do (or are so tired) it always gets pushed to the bottom of the list.
You wait until the mood, and you’re never in the mood, and suddenly months go by and you haven’t written anything recently.
And then you feel guilty, and that definitely kills the mood, and the cycle continues.
Let’s look at the truths about being ‘in the mood’ for writing.
You will be slightly pleased, and unsurprised, and a little disappointed to discover that mood isn’t a reason not to write. It’s just one of many reasons we use to set aside something that is difficult. Outside our comfort zone. And requiring more effort than the tasks and habits which flow easily.
Mood is not what creates good writing
You’ve been ‘in the mood’ before. But stop for a moment to think about what caused that mood. What was it which inspired you to write that piece of content which just flowed? Before you started, you weren’t thinking, “I really feel like writing!” Matter of fact you weren’t thinking about writing at all. Instead, you were thinking about:
- Frustration: Something really bothered you, and you were tired of having to explain it over and over to many different people. Or it was swirling round in your mind, and you needed to get it out.
- Inspiration: You felt fired up about something good, an idea, a win, a new way of looking at things. You got so excited you
Yes, you had a feeling (or a lot of feelings), but the point is not the feelings themselves. The question is where did those feelings come from? Why did they get stirred up? It was because of
- A created item: A social post, an image, a film, a story
- Someone else’s idea or thoughts
- A client’s issue or problem
- A victory or result
…or one of a thousand other things.
You didn’t just happen to be in the mood. It came FROM something. So the question is not “am I in the mood?”, but, “what can I do which might stir up the mood?” What path can you put yourself on which could lead to a greater willingness to write?
Yours will be different than someone else’s, but look for patterns in your life. Day of the week. Time of day. What you were doing just before the idea hit. How energised you were (or weren’t). Whether you exercised that day. Your financial or business situation (did you just sign a client or finish a big project).
For me, often my best ideas hit when I’m out on a walk in the woods, letting things swirl about in my mind. Or when I’m reading a book, and the author’s words stir up new ideas in my own mind. (It’s actually the reason I sometimes put off reading a good book, even one I want to read: because I know fine well it will stir up all these ideas and I’ll want to start writing and sketching and blogging and working. Which sounds exhausting, so I put the whole thing off!)
When you look at your own patterns, you’ll have a much better idea of when you will be more likely to want to write: and best of all, you can actually facilitate it. If you’re feeling draggy and “not in the mood”, go for a walk, or a run, or cycling. Pick up a book and read it. Follow up with a few prospects. Do something that you know fine well will lead you to ‘feeling like writing’, and then start.
What is it causing you not to be in the mood for writing?
Sometimes no matter what you do, you’re still not feeling it. You start typing and nothing comes out. The first few paragraphs just sound like gibberish. You went for a walk or a run and now you feel worn out, not inspired. You watched a film or documentary, and instead of being inspired you realised how incredibly tired you are and just wanted a nap.
We’ve talked about the positives; now let’s look at the negatives. The things holding you back. Why is it you’re just not in the mood? Consider some of these reasons:
- Physical – are you tired? didn’t get enough sleep? skipped your workout? ate less healthy food recently? gained weight? broke or strained something?
- Emotional – is there something you’re dealing with which is confusing your heart and mind? Are you particularly sad or worried or hurting? did something happen which stirred up feelings from the past? Is someone else you care about hurting, and it’s weighing you down?
- Financial – did you just lose a client? is a project not going well? did a proposal not get signed? are your sales or profits down this week or month?
- Relational – is there someone with whom things aren’t going right? a friend, a family member, a team member, a client, a partner?
- Weather – is it cloudy, dark, grey, cold, stormy? Or maybe hot, muggy, oppressive? Are you picking up on the mood of the weather in your own spirit?
If even one of these things is present, it makes things harder. When more than one are present, it gets harder and harder and harder until it feels impossible. This is why the whole pandemic thing has been so particularly hard on everyone. There’s a weight of grief and struggle which is sitting there every single day, no matter how good the day feels. It’s always a complex combination of issues.
Actually stopping to ask why you’re not in the mood is not merely to help you start writing. Simply recognising and naming the issues is half the battle: the other half is deciding whether to fight that battle today.
Sometimes the answer is to say “oh, this is why I’m not feeling like writing today: so instead of writing, I’m going to go sort out this thing”. Sorting it out could mean going for a walk. Picking up the phone for a hard conversation. Texting a friend. Following up a proposal. Taking a nap. Giving up on work and spending time with the family.
Just be sure not to let your “sorting it out” become an avoidance tactic for the writing. Sometimes you just need to put your hands to the keyboard.
Do you actually know what you’re going to write about?
Moods and emotions and feelings are a huge part of avoiding writing: but the other part is the content itself. Do you actually know what you’re going to write about? Because if you don’t, that’s going to make it very, very difficult to write – even when all the other physical and emotional aspects are taken care of.
Sometimes it’s not the writing itself. It’s one of these problems:
You don’t have a topic. You want to “write a blog”, but you don’t have a topic in mind. Or your topic is vague, and as soon as you put your hands to the keyboard you realise just how vague it is. If you don’t have a “They Ask You Answer” (TAYA) list yet, get one created. That’s the first step.
You have a topic, but you’re not sure of your key points. Having a question is all very well – but what is the answer? What are the key points you need to cover? The blog post you’re reading now comes from several of our clients asking the question – so I put the question in a note on my phone. A few days later I added a few bullet points – this is what I wrote on the note:
- writing is a creative thing – we think we need to be in the mood to do anything creative.
- Why aren’t you in the mood?
- Do you not know enough about it
- Are you frustrated with another issue you need to deal with
- Just start typing
- What t the key points
That’s it. That’s all I had written. Then I started writing it, mostly because I myself didn’t really feel in the mood. I was feeling blah and bland and the weather is all cloudy and rainy and I have so much to do I don’t even know where to start….so I decided writing a blog and then publishing and sharing it would help me feel better. And now you’re reading it.
Wherever your TAYA list is, make sure you have space to add notes. I suggest not only bullet points, but content from emails, texts, Facebook posts, wherever you wrote anything about that question or issue. A few sentences is often enough to get you going and remind you why the blog needs to be written.
You need to do more research. Depending on the complexity of the post and its content, you may actually need to get more information than what is in your head – and that puts you off. Taking 5 minutes, or a half hour, to get the information you need, could be enough to inspire you to start writing. Or if it doesn’t, you’ll at least have your key points at last. And when you do start writing, nothing is missing.
You aren’t clear who you’re writing to. Having a clear audience in mind – ideally, one particular person – goes a long way towards inspiring your writing. The best blogs I’ve ever written are in answer to a question one particular accountant asked me – and then another one asked and another one and another one. So I have this person in mind, and all the people I know who will find it helpful, and I’m more inspired to write it. I know it will help them, so I want to get it out there. (Join our Niche 4-week course to get clarity on your audience.)
It’s not urgent. The question is important, but it doesn’t need to be answered instantly. You’ve got other, more urgent questions to answer, and it feels faster to type out a few emails and texts and DMs than to write a whole blog about it – so you put it off. One of the things that helps me immensely is knowing that once it’s written, I will instantly save myself 5 minutes or 15 minutes or longer every single time the same question comes up in future. Yes, it will take me a little longer today: but tomorrow and the next tomorrow and all the following tomorrows will be able to help people so much faster.
You don’t have someone to tidy it up and publish it for you. Writing is only half the battle. Even once the post is written, you still need to find an image, put the content into a blog post, choose tags and categories and fill in the SEO fields, publish it, review it, fix the headings, update it, share it on social… it feels like even more work which you’d rather not think about right now. My suggestion is that you have someone (a PA, a team member, or PF itself) to do all of this for you. We have a WordPress website maintenance retainer which does all of this for you. Send us your content and the team will sort out the content publishing tasks listed above – for your blog posts or for your website pages. It’s still important you know how to do it, if need be. I tend to have the PF team take care of that for me, but every once in a while I do it all myself, because it’s a weekend or they’ve got a lot of work on or I just want to get the post out fast. Make sure you know how to do it yourself, if you need to.
Just start writing
All of these reasons and considerations are all very well: but the most common advice I’ve ever seen by any writer for the last several hundred years (or longer) is simply this:
Just start writing.
Put your hands to the keyboard, and start. Create the first draft – what Brene Brown calls the SFD. It’s not the final. It’s not published. It’s not perfect or spelled properly or even in the right place. Maybe it’s just a bunch of words on a note on your phone or in an app or a Google doc or a blog post draft.
The first draft is perfect, simply because its job is to exist.
That’s all the first draft is supposed to do. Exist.
A mess is fine: you can tidy up a mess once all the main pieces are there. But if all you’ve got is a blank page, you can’t make “nothing” look better. Start with your messy first draft and tidy it up later. Once you get past the first few sentences or paragraphs, you’ll likely be surprised at how well it flows.
We started out at the beginning of this post talking about how accountants aren’t used to writing – and even if you do everything I’ve suggested, if you’re not used to writing, you’re still going to feel like your writing isn’t that great. You’ll feel like it’s stupid or rambly or over-formal or not formal enough or pointless or salesy or boring.
Still keep writing. Because the second most popular advice for writers is that the best way to become a better writer is to…
It’s the same for any creative activity – or indeed any activity or habit at all. Want to have better videos? Record more videos. Want to run faster? Run more. Want to write better? Write more.
Yes, you’ll want to get feedback and support on your writing, just as you would want a coach or a trainer for any other area. You can join the Content Creators group to get specific, constructive, supportive feedback on every piece of content you create – as well as monthly group coaching calls with the PF team going through yours and other accountants’ content in a safe place.
Figure out what kind of writer you are
Finally, remember not everyone writes in the same way.
Not everyone sits down at a special writing desk in a corner of their big beautiful house with windows looking out to the garden and classical music playing softly in the background. (Matter of fact almost nobody does that.)
A finished blog post, with headings and sub-headings and bullet points and images, is not the starting point. What’s your thought processing type? Are you a speaker, a listener, or a typer?
Speaker: You figure out what you want to say by saying it aloud, usually sharing it with someone else and getting their feedback and input.
If this is you, find a friend or a team member or a business partner and talk out what you need to say. It will get you all fired up for writing.
Listener: You do a lot of listening – podcasts, audio, videos – and compile your thoughts over time, rather than in one time and place.
If this is you, create a note somewhere on the topic you’re writing about and start compiling everything you think about it. That will help you be sure of what you want to say.
Typer: Your thoughts come out of your fingers as you type. You may not even know what you think until you start writing it, and then it starts flowing. (This is the type of writer I am.)
If this is you, pick your topic and a few key points and simply start typing. Literally almost babbling to the keyboard. It will start to make sense pretty soon, and you can tidy it up and move paragraphs around once you’ve started.
Knowing the type of thought-processor you are will help immensely in changing your ‘mood’ for writing. Maybe you’re not in the ‘mood’ for typing out lots of words because that’s not how you think. You need to find someone to talk to and bounce ideas off. Or record a video and share it with people first. And then the blog will come.
No matter what tactics you employ – whether recording audio or typing out words or writing with a pen on paper and scanning it in or getting your words transcribed or recording video – at the end of the day you’re just going to have to start.
Write again as often as you can.
Until it becomes familiar. Becomes more comfortable. Becomes habit.
And then mood won’t matter that much.