A popular trend in recent years is the tiny home movement. Tiny home sales have increased dramatically since the mortgage crisis of 2008, and there are about 10,000 tiny homes in the U.S. In 2017, for instance, tiny home living saw a 67% year-over-year increase.One of the benefits of living in a tiny home is learning how to cope with less and make the most of what you keep.
In February of this year, my wife and I decided to get rid of everything we owned and convert a shuttle bus into a motor home. We were going to live on two axles. Then COVID-19 hit and we had to get creative.
Pennsylvania went on lockdown, so we couldn’t even look at vehicles until mid-May. When we finally transferred title on our vehicle of choice, we had six weeks to make it liveable and hit the highway. On July 4, we declared our independence.
I’m not trying to convince you to move into a tiny home. As a writer, I try to use every life experience as something I can use to better my writing tool belt, so I’d rather share some things that moving into a tiny home has taught me about being a better writer. Perhaps my experience can help you too.
I thought I was pretty organized—until I had to be.
With six weeks to convert a bus into a tiny home, figure out what to put in storage or take with us, condense a three-bedroom house with two bathrooms into less than 200 square feet of living space, and plan our departure while also running a business, we had to figure out fast how to be efficient, effective, and get it all done by our self-imposed deadline.
One of the things we learned along the way is the high value of being—and staying—organized.
Any move requires strong organizational skills. The special challenges of moving into a tiny home make them even more of a challenge. These organizational skills transfer to the business of being a professional writer by saving time and making the writing process more efficient.
For instance, the key to making more money is writing more in less time. If you can write a book in four weeks instead of six, then you can publish 12 books a year instead of eight. So how do you do it?
Here are three tips for being a better-organized writer so you can publish more content.
If you’re a blogger, that might mean brainstorming a month of posts in one sitting. If you write Kindle books for a living, perhaps you brainstorm a year’s worth of titles all at once. This is much more efficient than coming up with new ideas every time you write.
Words fly faster with an outline. The outline keeps you focused on your desired end result. Create an outline for every project before you start your research. This alone will prevent you from chasing rabbit trails.
This requires intense concentration, but it saves time. For example, if you are planning a series of books, write your outline for each book in one sitting. That may take an entire day, but when it comes time to write each book, that’s one less thing to do and it will make you more productive in the long run.
Because my wife and I focused on one room at a time and made a to-do list early in the process, we were able give away, sell, and toss anything we didn’t want to keep, secure a storage facility for items we were keeping but not taking with us, and fit everything we wanted to take with us into our new home by our deadline. Likewise, you can overcome insurmountable obstacles in your writing by staying organized.
When moving into a tiny home, you have to be selective about what you keep, sell, and throw away. By the same token, when it comes to writing, you need to be selective about how you approach the writing process and the content you include in your projects.
Here are my top three tips for being more selective during the writing process.
The key to be selective as a writer is to be organized in your head. For some writers, that means outlining. Others prefer mind mapping. And then there are those who practice mindfulness. However you organize your brain, make it your first step.
Keywords are words and phrases that searchers use to find information online. Search engines rank content based on those words and phrases. They’re very important for web content.
If you’re writing a book, a lead magnet, or content behind a paywall, you may think keywords aren’t necessary. But you’ll likely promote it using search marketing tactics and social media. I recommend you focus your content on one to three keywords per 1,000 written words. Publisher Rocket is a nifty keyword research tool to help you identify sales opportunities on Amazon. Otherwise, Google’s Keyword Planner is adequate.
Good writing is tight writing. Hack and slash your content with wild abandon. Think like a serial killer and cut any prose that doesn’t advance your point.
Traditional home builders create a blueprint or design plan before they begin building. In the same way, the key to planning a move from traditional living into a tiny home is to begin with the end in mind.
To make this happen, my wife and I divided up responsibilities. Since my wife is better at playing with power tools than I am (I’m a writer, after all), she did the design work. While I continued to run my writing business, she spent some time early on watching YouTube videos to learn how other bus and van converters created their living spaces. Then she drew up a design plan for the potential living space we might eventually settle on.
Doing this while on lockdown was a huge benefit because it allowed us the time to research vehicles, decide on what would be right for us, and discuss living features that were important to us. Knowing where we wanted to go was essential in helping us get there faster.
This principle holds true of any kind of writing. Make your most important decisions before you begin the process. When you do, the content will flow naturally.
Here are three tips for beginning with the end in mind. Again, these tools are designed to move the heavy lifting up front where it belongs.
A mind map is a diagram that visually illustrates how the ideas in your article, book, or other content piece relate to each other. Some writers prefer mind maps to outlines because of the visual element. The mind map shows the hierarchy of ideas you plan to discuss in your writing much the same way an outline does, but in a more visual way.
Keywords are the nuts and bolts of writing in 2020. Take the time in the beginning to research the best keywords for your content. However, search engines penalize keyword stuffing, which is the practice of stuffing keywords into your content just so they appear in the text. It’s better to focus on natural language writing that uses keywords in such a way that they do not look forced.
Synonyms are good, but focusing on specific keywords ensures that your content targets the right audience and that it maintains its purpose.
Here’s an example: If you’re writing about tiny home living, an obvious keyword is “tiny home.” But you don’t want every sentence you write to use that phrase because it will be monotonous for the reader and unnatural. A quick search using Google’s Keyword Planner tool shows that synonyms for “tiny home” include “tiny house,” “mini house,” “little house,” “arched cabin,” “cottage,” and more.
Performing keyword research at the beginning of the writing process allows you to discover useful synonyms and the most profitable primary keyword for your content so that when it is time to write you can write more naturally.
Conventional wisdom says to write your headline last, but if you organize your brain, conduct keyword research, and identify your audience before you do anything else, you can write your headline before you write the content.
Your headline is intrinsic to your audience. Therefore, your outline, keywords, headline, subheads, and your content should all synchronize. And if you do it right, they will.
More important than when you write your headline or title is writing one that is perfect for your content. There’s a process for that too.
Writing demands intense concentration. If you spend one-third of your allotted time planning (organizing the brain, keyword research, etc.), you can take care of the heavy lifting up front and get to the end more efficiently. Your writing will be more powerful and you’ll become more effective as a result. Who knows? You might even find your income rising.
Allen Taylor is a ghostwriter for executives, a content marketing veteran, and owner/chief content officer at Taylored Content. He lives in a tiny house on wheels with his wife and hangs out at LinkedIn.