Blogging is the new writing medium for the masses. Some people lament the fact that anyone can go about publishing content for the world to see, but those people are probably the great-great-grandchildren of the guys who threw rocks at Gutenberg. I honestly believe that the more people writing, the better off we are. This is especially true for industries like ours. Business SEO is becoming more slavishly devoted to content every day, and I’m always impressed with what friends and colleagues are able to come up with when they sit down and start putting words on the page. People are always looking for writing tips though, and I’m tired of the same generic blogging advice. I thought it might be valuable to look at some words of wisdom from other writers, namely novelists.
So let me offer up a few of my favorite pieces of advice from some great writers:
“Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.” – Kurt Vonnegut
This quote is from Vonnegut’s advice to young novelists, but I think it’s even more relevant for bloggers. In the great rush for content production, everyone has lost sight of the reader now and then. A bad novel will waste weeks of a person’s time whereas a bad blog will only waste minutes, but they aren’t your minutes to waste. Endeavor to spend your reader’s time well, it’s okay to fail, it’s just not okay to be apathetic.
“Sh*tty First Drafts” – Anne Lamott
Anne Lamont is a wonderful writer and terrific lady who uses curse words in all of her advice (not really.) This quote from her book Bird by Bird should be celebrated by writers the world over. The point of it is that you should NEVER be afraid to put pen to page (or fingers to keyboard, as it were). Write fearlessly and let all of your ideas flow out while the river is raging. Even if your raging river is more of a dammed up stream, still let it flow. You might feel like it’s bad, and it may even BE bad, but it’s just a first draft.
“The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.” George Orwell
This is another quote that is great for novelists but may be even better for bloggers, especially marketing bloggers. Don’t pretend to give advice just to have a wrapper for your sales pitch. You can include your links and a modicum of self promotion, but the posts themselves should have value for more than just yourself and Google’s robots. Either write for people to read it, or don’t bother writing. People can smell genuine emotion from a mile away, and insincerity stinks worse than Orwell’s cuttlefish left out in the sun.
“Kill Your Darlings” – William Faulkner
Luckily for his loved ones, Faulkner was only talking about writing. When you write, you tend to latch onto phrases or lines or metaphors that you love. Usually, they are great in the first draft, but after a few revisions, they can seem a little forced or otherwise out of place. You’ll try to shoehorn them in because you find them powerful, but you aren’t writing for you, you’re writing for the world. This is just as true for blogging as it is for novels. So, when it comes time for the final draft, good writers aren’t afraid to kill their darlings.