Stop “Creating Content.” Start Writing.
Does content marketing lead sincere writers in the wrong direction?
I love writing. I started writing for nothing more than the joy of putting words together. Once I figured out I wanted to make a living writing, I learned about content marketing techniques to help promote my writing.
The techniques helped, but at times it felt like they led me astray. When I get caught up in learning “hacks,” I lose focus and my writing suffers.
You have to market your writing to succeed, but consider where the content marketing road is leading you.
Do you want to write, or do you just want to “create content?”
I listened to a podcast with brain pickings founder Maria Poppova. She said something that hit me like a ton of bricks, and made me re think the way I approach my writing career.
She said, “If Kurt Vonnegut were alive today and writing online, he wouldn’t refer to his writing as content.”
I want to create meaningful work and leave a legacy. I want to become a successful writer by sharing what I want to share.
If you’re an aspiring writer, I’m guessing you want the same.
Be careful. Use content marketing to your advantage, but don’t let it use you. Don’t lose your voice and end up sounding like everyone else.
What Are You Being Sold?
You love words. You love to write.
You read blog posts about making a living with your writing and it excites you. You picture yourself writing from your couch in your pajamas and watching the money roll in.
According to the experts, you just need to “create content,” you know readers will love and you’ll get the attention, respect, and money you desire.
Writers have never had as much opportunity for success as we do right now. You can put your work online and use it to build a platform that will make you money.
An established writer platform can lead to freelance work, a book deal, (successful) self-publishing, and the opportunity to create product around your writing.
You can build your platform and cash in, but it’s up to you to figure out which route you want to take.
You can combine marketing skills with stellar writing, or you can play copy-cat and write the same way everyone else does.
Here’s the kicker — both can lead to money, fame, and freedom.
You can start from scratch right now, pick a popular topic, build a platform, and profit from it. You can create cookie cutter, paint by numbers content, and become wildly successful.
I see writing like this every day.
But you can do better than cookie cutter.
Wouldn’t you rather succeed by being yourself as opposed to having to write stuff you don’t care about?
In the long run, I think you’ll be happier create work that means something to you. And your readers will love you for it.
Readers are smarter than you think…
I’ve written posts instructing writers to “keep sentences short,” “break up text with subheadings,” and “use simple direct language.” These are good tips, but at the same time we should remember, our readers aren’t dumb.
Your work doesn’t have to hit the lowest common denominator of intelligence to succeed. You don’t have to appeal to everyone. If you want to write long form, write long form. If you want to keep it short and sweet, write pithy and punchy — I like writing this way, but I don’t do it because I think my readers are dumb.
I’ve read so many posts saying readers are “lazy scanners.” Hell, I’ve even written something along those lines myself. But when I think about it, I read anything I find interesting, regardless of its length.
Some ideas can’t be expressed in five to ten bullet points. People will read a 4,000 word long essays if it’s well written, engaging, and cover an interesting topic.
Some of the favorite stories I read online go in depth, provide detail, tell stories, break all conventional “content rules,” and dare me to concentrate for fifteen minutes to read them.
We’re doing our readers a disservice if we don’t give them our full selves — the ones with problems, insecurities, and interesting stories to tell.
Many people don’t want to read any more “10 Tips for Being Awesome,” posts.
They want you.
They want your truth, your blood. Can you tell them something they can’t read anywhere else?
Your writing needs to appeal to other people. You should stay in tune with the needs of the people who read your work, but you don’t have to make assumptions about them based on made up blogging and content marketing rules. Those rules are guidelines, not the law.
Learn content marketing rules — they’re important, but break them when you see fit.
The Hidden Benefit of Saturated Markets
Online writers race to their blogs to get in on the “gold rush.” They’re pushing out content (yuck) and looking to turn a quick buck.
People are fed up.
They’re tired of people who’ve been blogging for 5 minutes trying to sell them the Ultimate Blogging Course for $1997 which contains nothing more than regurgitated content from the “influencers,” they follow.
The echo chamber will burst, and only the sincere, patient, diligent writers will be left standing.
I’m seduced by the thought of easy money, too, but unfortunately I’ve developed a conscience. I plan on writing for the rest of my life, so I have plenty of time to create something of value — something that actually helps people.
If you’re able to weather the storm, build actual expertise, and sharpen your skills, you’ll succeed as a writer.
The sea of average writers creates the perfect opportunity for you to do work that matters. While everyone else keeps cranking out the same lame “10 tips for content marketing success!” posts, you’ll stand out because you’ve decided to take the difficult route of actually having something interesting to contribute to the conversation — something that might not work, that isn’t an “mad lib,” fill in the blank, me too, ten point, indistinguishable, piece of content.
Can you play the long game? Can you delay your gratification?
The tortoise won the race. The “me too,” bloggers are the hare. They’re publishing at a ridiculous clip, and they will burn out.
Most blogs die out in a few months. It’s hard to keep writing about something you’re not interested in just because a marketing guru told you to.
Be patient, young padawan, and keep writing your little heart out. In time, the universe will catch up to your effort.
How to Find the Sweet Spot Between Marketing and Art
You still want to make a living, right?
You have to market your work to do that.
Content marketing works, but it doesn’t have to be “strictly business.” If you blend marketing with art, you stand the chance of becoming the revered writer you dream of being.
So how do you become remarkable? What’s the secret?
The secret doesn’t exist. You can’t follow a blueprint for being remarkable.
All you can do is be yourself. Content marketing exists to provide guidance for your career. You need to get yourself noticed online to succeed as a writer in 2016, there’s no doubt about it, but no one can tell you exactly what you should do.
You’re looking for the road map with no detours. I know this because I used to to look for the same road map.
What’s the perfect blogging niche?
Where can I find the perfect “tribe,” who will devour everything I write?
What’s the best trick I can pull to get people to read my work?
You’re never going to find foolproof answers. Just write. Write about the things you notice in your space. Tell us your story. Tell us why you’re writing what you write. Say what you want to say, not what the gurus tell you to say.
You’re already remarkable. You’d see that if you started to become more of yourself instead of trying to be someone else.
If you want to be a writer, try being a writer who markets their work, instead of a marketer who writes as a means to an end.
Use content marketing, but don’t drink the content marketing kool-aid.
Write your truth. We’ll accept you just as you are.
And hey, if you think I’m full of it, don’t listen to me!
That’s the whole point of the post. The best writers are the ones who dare to think for themselves.