Content Please



When William Faulkner won the Nobel Prize for Literature he said in his acceptance speech –

It is his [the poet’s, the writer’s] privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past.

Ten years later Faulkner said something that may strike some of you as odd. Not because it is an odd quote, but because in context to the web it isn’t talked about much. Although this may not be your cup of tea — though I am sure you will agree with it — I implore the small handful of you that do connect with this quote to read on and then to take action.

Really the writer doesn’t want success….He knows he has a short span of life, and that the day will come when he must pass through the wall of oblivion, and he wants to leave a scratch on that wall — Kilroy was here — that somebody a hundered, or a thousand years later will see.

Calling All Writers

This is a plea to those of you who already feel the tension of poor content and the desire to abandon what the blogosphere has taught is right and wrong in writing for the web. This is a plea to instead create something great. Something that is — ultimately — worth reading.

Why? Because I want to read what you have to say. And if I were a betting man, I would wager than many others do too.

My Journey

A few weeks ago I wrote about my goal to personally reinvent my weblog publishing stereotype. As a blogger I was faced with the dilemma of fifty million other voices telling me by word or example how I ought to write. Those voices were choking out any life I may have imparted through my use of the English language.

I wish I had started blogging before it was popular and before you could make money doing it. I also wish that for the first six months of writing my first blog I hadn’t read anyone else’s site, so I could have discovered my own voice, my own rhythm and my own niche. Instead I read every how to out there and studied all the popular blogs. They all told me to publish easily scannable posts. To use the right keywords and create outstanding post titles. That may be fine for them, but to me that’s not writing. And I want to write.

There is an issue that supersedes our niche, our audience, our focus and our topic. That issue is content.

Content Does Not Equal Topic

Quality content is not dependent upon its topic. You may write with regard to any subject you choose. It is how you write that matters.

Amber Simmons articulated this point –

The distinction I make between “content” and “copy” is my own: I don’t pretend this is an industry standard. But we all know copy when we read it: it’s the marketing fluff that serves no purpose but to take up space. It doublespeaks and obfuscates. It’s the inflated speech of the politician using many words to say nothing, the sales pitch of the greasy used-car cretin whose crafty euphemisms try to disguise the fact that his product sucks. […] Content, on the other hand, fills a real need: it establishes emotional connections between people. The writing has heart and spirit; it has something to say and the wherewithal to stand up and say it. Content is the stuff readers want to read […] Content is thoughtful, personable, and faithfully written. It hooks the reader and draws him in. […] It delivers what it promises and delights the attentive reader. A.L.A. #242

Don’t Give In

I used to sit down once a week on Sunday afternoon with a paper or a magazine and read just a few articles. And that was it. My whole week contained less than 1% the “journalism” consumption I am now faced with.

The problem of having so much incoming information is that people now skim and speed read 100+ articles and blog posts every day. And we, as the writers, are allowing them to continue by creating content that only highlight the points and a few quick facts without any substance. We are saying it is OK to skim our site. Thus fattening the problem of poor content creation.

Writing With Mustard

An article without passion is like meat with no mustard; insipid. (From Anatole France)

The pivotal hinge upon which a well written article that will engage and move your readers swings is emotion. And ultimately, it’s you.

Hemingway said,

All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belong to you; the good and the bad the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer.

Writing a quality weblog article is different than writing a classic book, but the principles are the same. Seek to engage your readers and give them something worth their time and thoughts.

Kilroy Was Here

You can sit in Starbucks, hit a few keystrokes and moments later your thoughts and opinions are available to readers all across the globe. This is a privilege and opportunity unprecedented in the history of civilization. You literally have the ability to influence young and old alike in every continent on the planet.

Therefore the question becomes not “What will you write about?” but rather, “What will you say?”

If you are writing a review, posting a personal update or interviewing a photographer; do it in such a way as to let the internet users of our grandchildren’s generation know that Kilroy was here.