This is the sixth in a series called How to Brainstorm a Year’s Worth of Blog Topics in Four Hours. You can read the other blogs in the series by clicking on this link.
Every book is a storybook. That includes your business book. Yes, we can convince with data, but we connect with stories. Stories hook our hearts. A book without stories is a rant, a lecture or a plea. A book that is underpinned by stories is a powerful bird. On its mighty wings, we soar high above the problems we face and see the patterns, like fields of colour below us. Then we swoop down to look more closely at them on a guided tour.
In daily discourse, we tell stories without a second thought. They are our natural language when we are relaxed with friends or family. But this is not always so easy when we sit down to write a blog or chapter in our book. Stories seem to evaporate when we try to find them. That is why I recommend to all my clients, when they start blogging or writing their book, that they go on a story hunt – every day – and capture stories in an online story “bank” or journal.
Not every story you tell needs to be your own story. If you are blogging, you need one or two stories per blog. If you are writing a book, you will need at least 30 stories for a nine-chapter book. The good news is that when you start to look for stories you will discover them everywhere.
Here are seven places to look for stories to add to your bank.
- Your personal life
Make sure your story has a point. Only go as deep into your personal experience as you feel comfortable with the whole world knowing.
- Your professional life
What lessons have you learned? The vital element of these stories is to make sure you are NOT the hero.
- Your clients’ experiences
Make sure you have their permission (you’ll be surprised how often they say yes) or anonymise the story.
- Other people’s blogs
Look for strong ones with good stories.
Every great podcast relies on stories. Meditation teacher Tara Brach is a favourite of mine. The Moth is dedicated to storytelling.
- Newspapers and magazines
Look for stories that illustrate the points you are making. Stories from these sources add currency to your book.
- Friends and family
With their permission or anonymised. This is probably one of the more delicate sources of stories, so tread carefully when collecting stories from friends and family.
Bonus secret place: Jokes
Consider funny stories. Too often – and I am guilty of this – the stories and examples I choose are pretty serious. Lighten up. Google jokes on your topic. Listen out for funny stories.
How to capture stories in your bank
Stories can seem vivid when we experience or remember them, but unless you capture the essentials of them at the time, you might forget the point. So capture, at a minimum:
- The story itself in a couple of lines. For example, my older brother, at age five, broke his front tooth while attempting to put on his underpants with a single jump. He missed one of the leg holes and fell onto a bedside table, chipping his tooth.
- The source. Did you read the story in the paper, did you hear from a friend? Which friend? Which paper? The story of my brother’s front tooth is family lore and has been retold many times.
- Decide point of the story. Every story in a non-fiction book must have a purpose or point. In my mind, my brother’s story has many possibilities. For example, learning can be painful. Or, sometimes wonderful inspiration has a practical downside. Or, when attempting a fabulous goal, clear the decks around you.
Remember, stories hook your reader emotionally and so we must create a bank of them. Go forth and hunt down stories for your blog and book.
This series of seven blogs solves the single biggest problem facing bloggers. That problem is not, as you might expect, getting started. It’s keeping going.
Most of us can pump out a blog or two. Sadly, that is not going to serve you. In fact, it will do you more harm than good. People will look at your website, see you haven’t blogged for three months (or years), and wonder if you are still in the game!
Bloggers stop writing because they run out of ideas. If you plan your blogs ahead, you will never run out of ideas. It will only take you 30 to 60 minutes to write your blog.
This blog series will show you how you can brainstorm an entire year’s worth of blogs in four hours! You will never run out of ideas and will write your blog quickly and efficiently every time.