5 Tips for Giving Your Writing More Cowbell

We all have days when we feel as if we’re only going through the motions. Even during our most productive periods we can produce work that’s lacking a little..something.  Maybe the tone is off or maybe it’s not getting the point across well enough or maybe it just needs…more cowbell.

Don’t be afraid to use your voice

Many writers stifle their voices in favor of more antiseptic writing. What we forget is that our clients hire us because they appreciate our voice and wish to use it. It’s OK to add personality to writing that isn’t supposed to be personal. We can be authoritative, casual, or sell a product and still allow our true voices to shine through.

Dig deep

Get lost in your research. Find out what’s beyond the first page or two of Google. Find an angle for your subject matter that no one else seems to be talking about. If you were reading, what would you most like to learn about? If you were reading, would you consider it a comprehensive piece? Put yourself on the other end of the story and dig until your satisfied you touched every angle.

Put some effort into it

It doesn’t matter if you’re paid $10, $100 or $500, if you sign on to write, you signed on to give your all. Your readers can tell when you’re struggling. They can tell when you’re just trying to make a word count. Ask yourself this question, “If I was researching this topic, and I read this article, what would I think of it?” Also consider a potential client Googling your name and coming up with a half-hearted bit of copy. He might think twice about hiring you for his project. Never give less than your best, no matter who you’re writing for.

Quote others

Quotes work wonders for punching up a lackluster article. Hearing advice from experts or commiseration from an anecdotal source adds value and credibility. Sources also allow for discussions to take a whole new voice and direction. Readers feel sources add professionalism to an article and gives them an edge of authority. Plus, showing two opposing points of view will allow them to make an informed decision.

Tell a joke or two

Tasteful humor adds an element of fun and surprise to writing, and readers respond well. That isn’t to say everything you write should have an air of slapstick, but pausing to make your readers smile from time to time is something they’ll appreciate. A sense of humor shows you’re human.

Come back later

If you’re writing and just not feeling it, come back later. Step away. Go for a walk, read a book or do something else to clear your head. Revisit your writing a day or a couple of days later if time isn’t an issue. There’s nothing worse than plodding through a project when you’re not into it. Writing is the one place that if you don’t do your best, it shows.


What are your thoughts? I’m sure you have days where you feel as if you’re just going through the motions. How do you punch up your writing when you’re not really into it? How do you add personality to a bland piece?


13 responses
  1. bencurnett Avatar

    One of my favorite sketches.

    Number one, use your voice, was a big struggle for me. I think it eventually came down to confidence, and confidence comes down to miles.

    That’s why authentic voices stand out so well- you can’t buy that or fake it. It has to be earned with time.

    1. Deb Avatar

      I think that’s why blogging appeals to me so much, bencurnett. There’s something honest about a natural voice.

  2. Carson Brackney Avatar

    More cowbell? Did it.
    Now I’m wearing those gold-plated diapers.

    1. Deb Avatar

      You always bring the Cowbell, Carson. And please forgive me if I don’t check your diapers.

  3. Eric Angevine Avatar

    There have been times when I stifled my voice because I thought it might not fit the audience, but then I realized that’s what editors are for. They know their readership better than I do, so I give them me and let them cut if they feel it’s too much.

    I am actually in the midst of an article I’m not particularly feeling right now, and I finally decided to follow that old writer’s chestnut – just write. I’ve written it with all the panache of a college research paper, just to get the facts on paper. Now that I’ve done that, I can go back tomorrow and put some life into it.

    1. Deb Avatar

      There you go. You can always list the facts and come back and insert the meaty bits when you’re feeling it.

  4. Mary E. Ulrich Avatar
    Mary E. Ulrich

    You have the best titles.

    1. Deb Avatar

      Thanks, I actually feel I’m not very talented when it comes to titles and headlines. Someone reminded me of the SNL sketch the other day and that’s how I came up with the title.

  5. J. Michael Rivera Avatar
    J. Michael Rivera

    Deb, I couldn’t agree more. When I’m stretching my material and find myself staring at a blank screen, it’s a safe bet I haven’t done enough research.

    1. Deb Avatar

      Lack of focus might also indicate lack of interest in the material. Sometimes we’re just not into our projects.

      I’m a firm believer in the power of an outline, by the way. Creating an outline often shows me where I’m lacking.

  6. Ciawy Avatar

    I find “stepping away” and then meditating for at least 5 minutes helps clear my head and put the words together. Thanks for the other advice you gave.

    1. Deb Avatar

      You’re welcome Ciawry. Going for a walk or yoga are the best head clearing exercises for me.

  7. Matt Cardin Avatar

    Nice post. And I just have to chime in because I’m a lifelong Blue Oyster Cult fanatic who felt like the world became a better place with the advent of the SNL cowbell sketch, and who has been thrilled to see the way the whole cowbell idea has gone on to enter the cultural vernacular in a way that keeps BOC on everybody’s mind. Now even Freelance Writing Gigs has been annexed by it. My life is complete. 😉

    Seriously, Deb, thanks for the good thoughts.

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