Writing consistently is hard. Writing consistently interesting content is even harder, especially when you ghost write for other people. But whether you write under your own byline or not, blogging is for readers. Are you giving them what they’re coming for? How can you do it time and again? Aye, the answer lies within.
Having recently finished a 4500 word “Ultimate” Guide for X in 2013 (you know the type), ye olde cognitive resources are running a little low. I’d tell you all about it, but I shared it as a guest post, and it isn’t live yet so… another time. Anyhoo, what’s a writer to do?
My brains, they’s all mushy.
You’ve been there, right? Trying to assemble an interesting piece, but feeling like the ideas aren’t coming, you aren’t sure if you actually have anything fresh to say. Wondering what list of bullet points you can cobble together, what new angle is going to get your point across effectively. Let’s face it: so much has already been written, sometimes it seems there’s nothing left!
Case in point: Darren Rowse’s The Anatomy of a Better Blog Post is a compilation of more detailed posts that, together, constitute one heck of a resource page for writers. Not only is his article a truly useful reference itself, but each of the articles deliver a strong piece of advice. I’d have my work cut out for me were I trying to compete with that; if I did try to, I’d certainly fall short.
And he wrote that article in no time, simply curating content from his own site! It pays to publish good stuff in the first place, doesn’t it? I call that drawing on your back catalog of content, but I think Seth Godin said it first. He says lots of things first. Smart people manage to do that. A lot.
It’s better to be smart than industrious.
Lazy people love that sort of bon mot. So do I. If you’re here because you Googled “free blog content” you probably have similar sentiments. It’s not about a way out of hard work; it’s about realizing that hard work isn’t always sufficient to produce good writing.
Seth Godin proves, with one of the most widely read blogs in the world, that good ideas don’t need a lot of packaging. It doesn’t take but 30 seconds to find a powerful takeaway from Seth’s blog. Here’s one that’s highly applicable to our own business challenges as we grow Content BLVD:
There is the mistake of overdoing the defense of the status quo, the error of investing too much time and energy in keeping things as they are.
And then there is the mistake made while inventing the future, the error of small experiments gone bad.
We are almost never hurt by the second kind of mistake and yet we persist in making the first kind, again and again.
Seth starts with a great idea. Then he stops. Which is (sort of) the point of this entire post…
Start with a great idea. Let the post follow.
Often, when writers produce poor articles, it’s by starting with a topic, not so much a real idea, which makes the writing harder than it needs to be and the writing typically worse. That’s a two-fer of stink-ola. It’s especially unpleasant if you’re trying to get paid to write, and the content just isn’t coming– or it does come and no one wants it because, well, it stinks.
When you’re thinking about what to write, let your post follow the idea. If you don’t have an idea, don’t start! Maybe you throw down an intro paragraph or a couple of lines to prime your creative juices, but if that One True Idea doesn’t materialize, your post will end up just an empty container, fashioned out of words. Writing an article doesn’t mean you actually said anything. Articles that don’t say anything are the worst kind.
The One Point Checklist: Have a Gold Nugget
So much blogging advice is about structure, not substance. While structure (headlines, subheadings, images, paragraphs…) will make your post more readable, substance is the only thing that makes it worth reading.
Unlike celebrities who can get away with blogging about nothing, you can’t. You are your post– it is all you have to be judged by, and it’s the only thing that gets you paid in the long run.
Do you know what’s in the picture at the top of this post? It’s understandable if you thought it was gold, but it’s not. It’s pyrite, otherwise known as fool’s gold. Don’t go fooling readers into thinking you have a real idea to share, only to deliver a worthless post-like page. That’s what happens when you try to wring out a topic when you don’t really have an idea to give readers as a gold nugget.
What’s the gold nugget you want to share with your readers? Make identifying it a part of your blogging checklist every time. People remember gold nuggets. People tweet gold nuggets. They come back to prospect for more. You only need ONE! Build your post around that and results will follow.