So many people seem to be intimidated by writing. This was true when I was an undergrad, and a professor assigned us a 15-page research paper on the evolution of jazz and rock and roll. It was true when I was studying for my master’s degree, and we had to write up a statement of purpose to go with our teaching portfolios. The same holds true now, when it comes to developing content, and writing blog posts.
A disclosure: I’ve been writing since I was able to grip a pencil in my hand. In kindergarten, I created a story about a cat and a dog that went on a cross-country adventure together. My teacher had me write out one page at a time with an illustration to go along with each scene. When it was finished, she had it laminated and bound, and then placed in the school library. I don’t think too much about writing…so I find it somewhat confounding when I hear my peers lamenting over a blog post that they are struggling to finish. I think a lot of what seems so intimidating about writing has to do with the myths that surround writing. For example:
I can’t tell you the number of teachers I studied with who could barely write a coherent sentence. At the same time, I can name a number of high school dropouts who could easily compete with the Bard himself. Writing is more about having something to say. If you can have an interesting thought, you can write. If you can hold a conversation, you can write.
NO. Here’s a secret: even your TEACHERS hated reading those long-winded essays which danced around the point in order to meet a particular length requirement. Good writing, INTERESTING writing, gets to the point. It has something to say, and it says it. Good writers talk TO you, not AT you. It’s the difference between reading a history textbook and reading a memoir.
The truth: Blog posts are as long as you make them. You can write a blog post that spans several pages, or you can make your point in a single sentence. Most of us will do something in between. There are some guidelines (you don’t want to go too long, or you’ll lose your audience. You don’t want to go too short, or you might have a hard time making your point), but nothing is set in stone.
Once again, no. One of the first things I learned in my writing workshops at Oswego was to “write what you know”. What does Eminem have to do with writing and marketing? Very little, unless you ask Sean Platt over at Copyblogger. This might sound hokey, but if you believe what you’re writing, it will become true. That is to say, a good marketer can market just about anything. This becomes even more true when the writer is personally invested. It doesn’t matter what your job title or industry. If you like music, write about music. If art is your passion, write about your experience with figure drawing. Write about slinkys, or ancient Greek war tactics, or Neil Patrick Harris’ theatrical contributions. Just WRITE.
This may be one of few times anyone says this to you, but STOP THINKING SO MUCH.
Honestly, when it comes to writing, most people psych themselves out. Seriously, what is the worst thing that will happen if your blog post is terrible? Public shame and humiliation? Maybe, but this is the internet. Pretty soon, there will be a new lolcatz image up, and you’re plight will be forgotten.
Decide what you want to write about, and then do it. Put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and write until you’re done. You can always go back and edit later (or leave that up to your blog editor). As with most things, the more you do it, the better you’ll get, and the easier it will be.
Check out some of my favorite blogs for inspiration:
Brains on Fire
Let’s Colour Project
The Internal Makeover (featuring our own, Kathryn)
What holds you back from writing? What inspires you? Let me know in the comments.