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Content Under Pressure

Turning “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” Into Usable Content

By Susan Kostal

As a writer of both fiction and nonfiction, I subscribe to a special email list and follow several social media accounts that provide writing prompts. When they connect with our latent creative juices, writing prompts are the electricity (or the galvanism, if you watch “The Frankenstein Chronicles”) that charge great content.

And yet there are still times where I wrestle with what to write.

In deference to this time-honored struggle, I herewith present how to get great content from the much-trodden trope of “What I Did on My Summer Vacation.”

Write yours now, so that when school starts in late August or early September, you’ll be ahead of the curve. Consider it my summertime content strategy gift.

1. I Did This Thing

You had a case, you closed a deal, you counseled a client through difficult waters. You had a worthwhile intellectual experience. And if you aren’t completely disengaged, you will have learned something new from it. Every engagement should be a learning experience. Share what you have learned.

I recently wrote a post based on research that I did for an unsuccessful RFP. I didn’t get the client, but I thought a lot about their market and project in the bid process, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to leave that lying around without making use of it, especially if I can extrapolate, so that it’s not client- or project-specific. Someone should get some benefit, even if it’s not me.

2. I Went to This Place

That conference you attended? That has the makings of a client newsletter or post. Who spoke? What did they share? How can you advance that conversation and tailor it to your clients’ specifications? How can you add context and value? Did the conference theme resonate with what you are seeing in the market and with your clients?

Be the content Sherpa your armchair-traveling clients want and need. This is why TED talks exist. It’s the “I’ve spent my entire career thinking about this but here’s all you need to know in 20 minutes” roadside snack of homemade peach ice cream that makes the drive worth it.

3. I Brought Back This Stuff

As a kid, I brought back pedestrian things  — what now seems like crazy stuff — from summer vacations, like objects made completely of seashells (Florida), little spoons (from states devoid of shell-based tchotchkes) or, as an adult, what I now am forced to admit was resortwear. Upon further, more mature reflection, I sometimes wonder, “What was I thinking?”

And that’s the point: What were you thinking?

What about your experience affected you enough to bring back driftwood, textiles, that piece of art or ill-advised leisurewear? Tap into that meaning. Write about those trinkets or that lanyard and what they mean before you forget why you have them. You stopped your life and had a meaningful experience. Make the most of that mindful moment.

Well-traveled readers will have perceived that this post is a version of “Write what you know.” Which is exactly why teachers rely on “What I Did on My Summer Vacation.” As adults, we sometimes become so accustomed to our own knowledge that we aren’t aware of the wisdom we accumulate. Treat what you’ve learned as a professional as the great adventure that it is, and share it with others.

Illustration ©

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Susan Kostal Susan Kostal

Trends at Work columnist Susan Kostal is a legal affairs PR, marketing and content strategy consultant. She is a former contributing editor for Attorney at Work and previously wrote a monthly column, Content Under Pressure. Susan has covered legal affairs as a journalist for nearly three decades. You can follow her on Twitter @skostal and view more of her content at

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