A while ago I wrote about how I never really struggle with “what should I write about” issues. Sometimes I’m hit with the feeling that I don’t know what I want to say about something or simply not wanting to write at the moment, but I don’t sit there and wring my hands because there’s a hole in the editorial calendar.
Not only do I have a healthy list of ideas that I’ve jotted down thought-starters for, but the voices in my head literally won’t shut up long enough for me to go without expressing myself for very long. It’s why I find writing advice articles with titles like “Here’s How To Write Through Your Neuroses” perplexing because I literally don’t know any other way to write.
The Passion of the Writer
When it comes to helping that writing find an audience there’s lots of good advice about how to tailor your material to specific groups. They’ll tell you to analyze your site metrics to see what’s working and do more of that or gear your writing toward search trends and so on. Do a simple search and you’ll find scads of guidance along those lines.
That’s all fine, but in my experience it overlooks a very basic truth: If it doesn’t resonate with you, it won’t mean a thing to the reader.
Material that’s been engineered and produced specifically to appeal to a certain audience or trend might be fine, but it’s also usually bland as all get out. There’s no passion behind it, no perspective, nothing unique. It reads like any of 200 other similar pieces because they all include the same keywords, are arranged in the same way and all simply reorder and reword what was found in similar posts from six months ago.
Every Piece a Horcrux
For me, the goal of writing is not to be read but to write. If the material doesn’t resonate with me, if I don’t feel like I’ve poured a bit of my soul into it and feel emotionally spent when I finish it, how can I assume it will create any sort of connection in the reader?
Perhaps this betrays my upbringing in the age of powerful newspaper columnists and local TV anchors who would occasionally break from the news to read an editorial statement on a topic. In those days you followed media because of their perspective. There was brand loyalty, not the search-centric system where luring readers in with quick-hit/fast dissolve content.
I want that connection, but to get it I have to have an emotional investment in the material. Just as with any relationship, you have to give something to get something.
I don’t want to fault people who are writing to the trends and see doing so as their path to success. It’s a choice, and a legitimate one. It’s just that for me, writing needs to be more than that. There are thousands of people out there who can be vaguely helpful, but to create something unique and offer a singular value to readers you have to make sure you’re putting out material that represents who you are, not just what you can do.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.