Another title that is misleading. I think writing is pretty easy. However, getting people to value what you have written is the hard part. I can write all day long but that doesn’t mean it is any good or that people will want to read it. I am absolutely addicted to the statistics page for this blog and my Facebook pages. I can see which posts completely bomb and which posts resonate with readers.
I wrote, Advice from an amateur writer when I first started this little blog adventure and for a long time that was my most popular post. Since the Freshly Pressed article, I keep getting emails from people asking ME of all people how to be a better writer or how to write a better blog. I am honestly kind of amazed that anyone would ask for my advice (it feels pretty good though). I certainly don’t feel like any sort of expert.
It is also a little difficult when people ask you to read their stuff and critique it. I am not a critic. I just think people should write about what is important to them; and what is important to you may not be important to me – does that lessen the value of your writing? Nope – it just means I am not in your target audience.
I love blogs. I love this medium, because I love reading the perspectives of real people and not the mainstream media. In our way, all bloggers are journalists. When we write about our own lives or issues that are interesting to us – it is a form of reporting, sharing information, and seeking some sort of truth. There is a very good reason that many online “papers’ use bloggers as reporters (like the Huffington Post). We offer an opinion and perspective that isn’t owned by anyone. CNN doesn’t dictate what I write or how I write it. I do. For many, that alone is the value they get out of reading a blog as opposed to reading the Washington Post.
So anyway, as I try to answer these emails asking for advice, I find myself dolling it out like I am some sort of expert (and I certainly am not an expert) but I have developed a sort of standard response. To save you the time and effort of emailing me – here is what I think a “good” blog contains:
“I read A LOT of blogs before I started my own. I started several blogs that look very different from the one I have now, that have since been abandoned and sit out there on the Internet like poor orphaned children. The thing is – they sucked. I am having success with this because I have an intent. I think those are the really good blogs that are out there. They have a message and that message is consistent. Whether it is to write about yourself everyday (which I kind of do) you have to have a reason that your life, issues, concerns, and humor are interesting to other people. If it is just you bitching about your job or your circumstance, you will be left with an audience of family and friends who only read it because they like and want to support you. Basically, a good blog gives the reader some sort of value. It either entertains them, it educates them, or it makes them feel something (if you can manage to do all three you have yourself a winner). If they are hilarious, the value the reader gets is laughter and the ability to relate. With the Tolerant People blog the point is for me to have my opinion, but let people discuss it. Let people disagree. Let people judge and hate me if they want. It is also to take issues we read about everyday or live with everyday and try to educate and teach people that there are good and bad ways to communicate a point. I try to write in such a way where my intent is communicated and people are entertained. Hopefully, they learn something in the process without even realizing it.” – Me
I genuinely believe that the real key to effective writing is intent. If your intent is to get people riled up about something you use different words to get them there, if you want them to laugh you write something funny. The intent of your writing is what matters; not your subject, your grammar, or the words you use. If you manage to correctly convey your intent, those are the posts that seem to get the most attention (at least in my experience).
You can’t teach someone that – it is something even the best writers need to practice. Some people are natural communicators and writers and some people have to work at it – but the goal for both is the same and that is to generate an audience and to convey whatever message you are trying to send through your words. In order to convey any message, you have to desire a certain response and write accordingly. Intent. Purpose. Value. It’s a tricky business really.
Because I write about such a wide array of topics, I have quite the mix of followers. I can’t please everyone everyday, but I try to write everything in such a way that even those who follow me for my social views, can also enjoy my posts about cats and dogs. The point is though, while I love my audience (thank you all so much!), I don’t pick topics based on them. Writing in its purest form is a selfish endeavor. Writers write because they have some sort of message to convey and learning how to get that across to readers is the process.
I sometimes try to picture successful authors as they sit down to write. Let’s take one of my favorites – Stephen King. He sits down at his computer and says, “I am going to try to scare the living crap out of people.” That is his intent. The story itself doesn’t matter really, as long as people have nightmares when they finish the book. Now I don’t know if that is really what he is thinking, but when you talk about writers who maintain a specific genre the stories all follow the same pattern – only the content of the story changes, only the characters change. The intent of the writing stays the same. The intent for Mr. King is to find that dark fear in peoples minds and bring it to the surface. Also, he wrote a really great book called, “On Writing” that I would recommend to anyone that writes. Learn from a master!
When I use the term “Dear Readers”, well, I stole that from Stephen King. It is a term of endearment and respect for those who read my stuff, because without you Dear Readers, I would be just talking to myself and my intent would never see the light of day.