Writing Good Content, When you have a Passion for it

While the article in question is not primarily about writing good content, it’s got a few gems for those trying to create it. The most pertinent for me was:

Every time you publish an article on your website, ask yourself: “Would anyone share this article for any reason?” If the answer is “no” then you should not publish the article.

Now there are a few recommendations that I don’t love, mainly because I find them tiring on sites I read so don’t want to be pushing them on my regular readers.

It’s not about what you know, it’s about what you know that’s also profitable. Starting a website about free poetry will probably never make you any money, even if you rank number one for most of the related keywords. (Emphasis mine)

If the main goal of the site is strictly to make money then I suppose you can’t go wrong with the above suggestion but I’ve got to wonder if you’re going to get burnt out writing for something ‘profitable’ where you have some knowledge but have little real passion for.

I could write about building vinyl decks, plumbing, electrical work, forming and framing houses since I’ve done all of those jobs at one point or another in my 32 years on earth. The reality is that I don’t have any particular passion to write about them. I do enjoy good honest physical labour and I love helping friends out on their renovations, but writing guides on how to perform home maintenance would bore me. I could see that a site about home renovations would even make money, but I’d never be dedicated enough to actually make it happen. No point in me working on it then.

I suppose that this also comes down to knowing yourself. Some people could write consistently about a topic they have little passion for, simply because they would make money at it, I’m not one of those people. I know I would never follow through on it, along with many other styles of business I tried and realized I loathe. No matter how much money a friend makes selling MonaVie I’d fail because I simply hate the work involved doing it.

So write good content, make sure that it’s something someone would share, and know what ventures are actually suitable for you.

Losing Long Form Writing

Byword my current writing tool of choice

I talked a bit more yesterday about tech journalism being broken mainly (at least in my opinion) because of the quest for the almighty pageview for advertising dollars. Well PandoDaily takes my thoughts further.

Not only is current journalism broken, we’re going to lose all the writers that can truly produce long form writing since they’re getting old, and no one is mentoring the younger generation. I know that I often rush through writing, I’m not great at editing my work and I should be working harder to do that. Despite working hard to try and not get caught in the quest for content creation simply for creation sake, I’m running the race.

So let me step back and think about what I really enjoy reading.

  • Articles in ‘The Feature’ from Instapaper
  • Long form opinion pieces like I’m citing in PandoDaily
  • New entrant, ‘The Magazine’ (and I hope it does succeed)
  • The New Yorker
  • The Atlantic

What don’t I like?

  • most traditional magazines loaded down with images and small text
  • poorly written non-meaningful posts with sensational headlines
  • short posts that say nothing new in a conversation

What Am I writing then?

I have a feeling that I’m writing more content of the type I don’t bother to read myself, at the very least I’m not writing enough of the content I want to read. I’ve got a bunch of longer form articles I’m working on, but few that are ready regularly.

So why am I writing the shorter ‘link’ posts? Mostly I write them because I want to point the content out to my readers. I think that the article I’m linking to has some value for you. I try to skip articles where I have nothing to add in the conversation, but sometimes I’m looking for that last article of the week and let some garbage slip through.

Is There a Fix?

The first step in fixing a problem is admitting it. So I admit that I write some garbage and I need to edit more. Now I’ll try to do some more editing. It’s probably better overall if I miss a day, then if I add a crappy post.

Second, I need to get stricter on myself with editing. No more writing and publishing immediately. I need to let an article sit for an hour, then do a proper edit.

That still leaves me without a mentor though. I don’t have anyone around that can be a filter for good content, someone that can challenge me to dig a bit deeper. Someone that can tell me the content has no thread and is a waste of the reader’s time. So I need to be on the lookout for that.

I suppose I could whine about the lack of time I have to produce long form content. I work full time as a programmer, writing is not my job and pays almost nothing. The simple fact is, that isn’t going to change really quickly so I have to suck it up and choose not to watch TV and write well instead.

Here’s to better content.

Learning To Write Well, Fast

Obviously I’ve really stepped up the publishing schedule of the site. As with any blog the main struggle weekly is figuring out what exactly to write, and of course to make sure it’s not terrible. This week I came across (hat tip Freelancing Weekly) a vid with 8 tips for writing good content quickly.

The first point that stuck out to me is that good content does not mean the article is long. A good article can be short and sweet. I’ve wondered off and on if I’m actually writing long enough articles. I even check word count and time reading (in iAWriter), really I should care more about what makes a good article.

One thing I’m not so sure about for most of my content is the long term editorial calendar. Much of the stuff I write come directly from thoughts on relevant articles for the week. I’m not sure how I can plan that and I fear that I would just be looking for articles to fit what was in the calendar even if they suck. I could do it for the longer form articles I write though.

The final tip is another one that we need to all remember for any task. It goes something like:

Work will fill the time allotted to it.

We’ve all heard it. Give yourself a bunch of time to answer email and you can be sure that it will take all of that time. The solution is to give yourself a clearly defined chunk of time to write your content, or check your email.