2017 Content Excellence Challenge: The February Prompts


Leave a comment with your entry for this month’s content challenge. You’ll have the chance to win a really good book!

Hey, it’s February! And that means we have two new prompts for our 2017 Content Excellence Challenge.

This month, we’re going to send a copy of Jonah Sachs’s book Winning the Story Wars to five randomly selected commenters. (See the details below for more about who we will and will not be able to send books to.)

Remember, you have two weeks before comments on the post close, so don’t dawdle. :) Give the creative prompt a try and show off how it turned out.

February’s Creative Prompt: Speak to one person

This is one of my all-time favorite ways to make your writing much better, instantly.

The prompt is:

Craft your writing to speak to one, and only one, person. As you write, imagine you’re sitting down with this person over a nice beverage.

Keep in mind that this may take some courage. The political climate at the moment is so charged that even rather innocuous statements can take on a political meaning.

But fortune favors the bold. The courageous voice will always win out over wimpy, dull, “safe” content.

Why it works

When you write for a crowd, you start to pontificate. That verb comes from the word pontiff, and it means to speak to an audience as if you were the Pope delivering a speech from a balcony at the Vatican.

That works great for the Pope, but it won’t work for you.

In your content, imagine one perfect human who’s the exact right match for your business. (Re-read this post if you need better clarification on who that might be: How to Attract Your Ideal Customer with Perfectly Positioned Content.)

I like to visualize this person in great detail. Not just gender, age, or other raw demographic information, but the kinds of details a novelist notices.

  • What kind of drink are you sharing? A beer? A coffee? Kombucha?
  • Do they have freckles?
  • Are they tall or short?
  • What are they wearing?
  • Where are you meeting?
  • What color eyes do they have?

This mental exercise is just to let you imagine a real, warm, flesh-and-blood human across the table from you.

Now, with your next piece of content, write individually to that person. Choose your words, your tone, your metaphors, the stories you tell, and the points you make all with that human being as your audience of one.

If you’re going to play along in our contest this month, leave a short paragraph in the comments showing us how it looked. No more than five lines — just enough to give us a flavor of the tone and voice.

February’s Productivity Prompt: The pivotal technique

This month’s prompt for productivity is one I’ve used for many years, detailed at some length in my post on The Complete Flake’s Guide to Getting Things Done.

It comes from Robert Fritz’s Path of Least Resistance, and in a nutshell, the technique is:

  1. Visualize where you want to go. In other words, what will the world around you look like when you’ve achieved what you want? Get extremely clear on this.
  2. Notice where you are now. What does the world look like as it is today? Get extremely clear on this.
  3. Without a lot of drama or self-flagellation, notice the specific differences.

The point here is not to beat yourself up about all the ways in which you don’t live up to your dreams. The point is simply to get very clear on where you are, and where you want to be.

The next step is just to figure out … what the next step is. What action, large or small, would move you in the right direction?

You can keep cycling through these steps — today, tomorrow, or quite literally for the rest of your life. Each cycle “pivots” you in a small way in the right direction. Over time, small pivots, with forward movement, add up to major changes.

Notes on the contest

A few caveats and clarifications for the free books:

  1. We’ll choose five folks at random from those who leave a comment with a brief (five lines or fewer) example of how they used this month’s creative prompt.
  2. You’ll need to be in the U.K., U.S., or Canada, so we can get a copy to you without a lot of delivery stress. If you’re somewhere else and there’s an easy way to get a book to you, we’ll consider it.
  3. If we choose your comment, we’ll contact you via the email address you leave in the comment form.
  4. We won’t share any of your info or use it for something weird, because that would be really dodgy. We’ll just send you your book.
  5. Comments that look spammy will get deleted. The editorial team, as always, has the final word on what looks spammy. If you want more specific advice, check out my podcast episode on Leaving Much Better Comments.

Let’s hear those one-to-one voices! Drop your entry in a comment below …

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