Working In Modalities That Suit You

This weekend, I spent about 10 hours turning out a new short course that was designed for delivery by email.  I was recently approached by a company that distributes online training courses via email and asked if I would consider creating something for their audience.  At first, I pretty much dismissed it because their business model doesn’t really deliver a financial return to content creators directly and I wasn’t sure of the value to me.

I exchanged emails with their founder for a few days to try and get a sense for whether this was going to be worth my time or not.  I wouldn’t say that she “convinced” me, but the reality is that I had a bit of an epiphany – I like writing, I do a lot of it and I enjoy creating educational content for people.

It made so much sense for me to have a crack at creating a course for them.

This isn’t my first rodeo for creating drip fed, email-based courses.  I think I did my first one on the topic of affiliate marketing about 7 years ago.  I used to charge $29 for access to that course and it sold pretty well.

But times are different now.  Marketing emails litter everyone’s inbox pretty much all the time and the idea of paying to get an email course is probably so foreign to people that it would be unthinkable to even try.  The value of email has been eroded to the point where for many people it is one step above being a nuisance.

Having decided to do this course, I figured it would take me the better part of a day to get it done.  They required 10 lectures, each between 500 – 700 words, a 10 question quiz and a bit of blurb for marketing.

A couple of interesting things came out the back of this exercise.

First of all, it took me about ten hours work from the moment I sat down to come up with the lesson outlines through to hitting the send button on the completed draft.  All up the whole thing came in at just under 7000 words which was at the upper limit of their requirements.

I probably spent about two hours creating the lesson plan in my notebook and another hour doing the marketing blurbs.  The hardest part of the entire process was creating the quiz – I really struggled with creating 10 multiple choice questions.

Creating the lesson content only took about 6 hours in total.  Having a topic for each lesson made it easy but for the most part, I was able to just write it off the top of my head.

The second interesting thing was how hard I found it to fit in everything I wanted to say in 500-700 words.  Writing daily emails and creating the newsletters has changed the way I write.  I’m much more story driven and detailed, but when you’re limited to a small word count, that can work against you.

I found this part really challenging.  There were whole ideas and subtopics that I’ve made a few notes on that I just couldn’t write about.  I also found myself staring at lessons that were 900 words and having to peel them back, remove some narrative, focus on the core information.  It was much harder than I thought.

The final interesting thing is that the process re-kindled my interest in creating new information products.  I really enjoyed this process and found myself sitting there thinking, “You know what else I could do a course like this on?”  Then I’d write down a topic in my notebook and get back to work.  I think I have three or four ideas floating around at the moment which is great.

I also realized that I could probably turn this email course into a video training course and flesh it out a bit more with some of the topics that I just couldn’t fit into it.  There are some new video course creation and delivery styles that I’ve been considering playing around with for some time and I’m going to think about how I might be able to bring some of these to life.

Aside from everything else though, one thing dawned on me… This inspiration and interest to create came from the fact that I chose to do something new in a modality that I’m most comfortable in and enjoy working with the most, writing.

I realized that being able to tackle this project from as a writing assignment was what made it easiest for me, but it also got my brain fired up.  Ideas and inspiration began to flow because I was working in a medium that gives me that freedom.

Too often we constrain ourselves and our own freedom of expression by getting trapped into thinking that we have to do something a certain way.  For example, I have the newsletter as my main writing outlet aside from the daily emails and when I think of creating information products my mind automatically was defaulting to video.  I don’t dislike video, I just don’t really enjoy the process of making it – I find it cumbersome and finicky.

Focusing on a writing first approach has broken me out of that mental gridlock.  More importantly, bringing this project to life has gotten me thinking about how I could turn it into a video course so there’s a certain motivation and excitement about it which is fascinating.

It was such a subtle change, but it’s had an incredible impact on me.  By doing the work the way that I most enjoy doing it, I found myself being more creative and inspired to not only do more but to branch out into other forms and formats.

So if you’re stuck in a bit of rut and not able to get your creative juices flowing, sit down and think about what’s the medium or modality that you enjoy creating the most.  That might be video, audio, written or even visual and just start working.  Let your creativity flow and see what comes out.

For me, it unleashed some energy and ideas that had been bottled up for months and I bet it can do the same for you.

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