Content. What’s the point?
No, really. It isn’t a rhetorical question. Or… rather, it is a rhetorical question.
In fact, it’s the first question when you begin writing. Why are you writing what you’re writing? What’s the point?
I write “content” for blogs. As much as I love writing, and I actually enjoy writing blogs, the demand for “content” is driving me crazy!
It’s what you do. It’s a requirement. You put stuff on your website to generate SEO, including pages of content with relevant key words. SEO has graduated to far more than just keywords, but “content” is still a large part of it.
Content for the sake of content is like the high schooler adding filler to their paper to reach the minimum word count, that’s just not the point. (When I taught Communication Arts and was asked how many words, my answer was “enough to complete the assignment.”)
And this idea of writing words for the sake of “content” has been bringing me down a bit.
See, I have the typical oldest child, type A, domineering, red personality. I want it perfect, good, and meaningful. And by “it,” I mean everything. Because I love writing, I am even more dedicated to its perfection.
If I were to compare it to something else, maybe I could compare it to being a musician. I could write incredible, complicated, interesting music, but that isn’t necessarily what will make my album platinum. What sells the album is the boppy song that gets stuck in people’s heads, and that’s the song they’re going to expect to hear at a concert. That’s the song that will get them to buy the album, share it with their friends and establish a cult following.
I’m uncompromising, so I’m dedicated to writing well. I spend hours of research, thinking, planning, writing, rewriting, strategizing and worrying what the client will think. I spend far more time than I should allow myself. In essence, I’m attempting to write a great song that just happens to also be popular.
So when a client wants “content,” and my standards are higher than my client’s, the disparity starts to wear on me. Why am I doing this? What does it matter? Why do I care?
I could easily be earning twice this much if I’d just let go of my perfectionist standards and bogged down practices. So one of my goals this summer is to get faster at writing. I’m continuing research, but I’ve identified a few strategies to start:
Use formulas. Formula writing isn’t necessarily fake or trite or vapid. It’s just a framework for writing. And because the reader anticipates the structure, it’s easier for them to read. Which makes it more likely they will share it. I just read a brief list of blog types to help get me started.
Immerse in research. So far I’ve written content for several different industries. Understanding an industry takes time, writing relevant content even more time. If I continue to spread myself across industries, I’ll spend more time researching when I could be producing (i.e. earning money.)
But if I research one industry, get to know it, then one brainstorm will apply to multiple writing assignments and even clients. Just today I wrote some thing and thought, “Well, if they don’t like this (because I have a client I know little about and am not sure of their expectations), I can easily revise it for another client (because I know they would like this).”
Plus, finding a niche makes you more likely to obtain clients. If people are looking for writers in technology, and I specialize in writing for technology, they are more likely to find and hire me. (But I admit I’m afraid of pigeon holing myself.)
Focus the topic OR generalize the topic, but not both. I’m a giver. I have a tendency to provide all the information I can. So I’ll have a list of three things about a topic and then go into detail about each. But the piece would be more beneficial, easier to digest and more likely to be shared if I focus on an overview OR one detail, but not both. I don’t have to give the reader everything at once (even if I really want to).
Just write faster…and smarter. Seems obvious, but I have to focus on writing faster. I need to give myself a set amount of time. Maybe two hours to start with (I’ve spent more than six hours on one post). And I need to plan out that time: 20 minutes on specific research, 10 minutes writing main points, 30 minutes fleshing out main points, 10 minutes on intro, 10 minutes on conclusion, 5-10 minutes on the title, 10 minutes on extras like tags, links, images, and social media elements. (Now that I’ve separated the tasks out with reasonable time allowances, I realize even more how I should be taking far less time than I am.)
I was actually able to write a blog quickly just last night. I’d been stewing over a topic for a blog as I was driving and doing other idle tasks. Then I sat down and wrote it in like an hour. Most of it, at least.
It’s good stuff. It’s good information. It’s relevant. It’s useful to readers. And since I don’t know anything about the client beyond what I can find online, It’s easier to accept what’s out of my control and worry less.
And man does that feel good! This small victory will help me persevere to write blogs faster.
So what is it that hinders your writing efficiency? How can you change you expectations or habits to free you from getting bogged down?