I stole the title of this blog entry from William Zinsser’s seminal book entitled On Writing Well because I feel that many people have the erroneous idea that blogs are not a serious form of writing--indeed, bloggers are often, yet incorrectly, looked upon as second class citizens in the writing world. This should not be the case.
Everyone and Their Dog
One of the reasons that some folks give me that “look” when I tell them I blog for a living (you know the one I mean--that same condescending look your Tinder date gives you when you tell them you are “in-between” jobs) is because, quite literally, everyone and their Shih Tzu seems to have a blog site--yes, people’s dogs have their own Wordpress.
Natural Brain Surgeons
My great-aunt, Nancy, keeps asking me if I’ve had a chance to read her weekly blog on her collection of porcelain fish figurines, aptly named “FLOG.” I haven’t. The point being that, yes, many blogs are a painful slog to read! This is largely because (brace for it) most people are not professional communicators, yet many think they can just sit down and write the next great Canadian Novel (move over Margaret Atwood), much like one can decide to dabble in brain surgery because they watched a few episodes of ER.
My professional photographer friends have a similar conundrum in that these days everyone who buys a digital SLR thinks they are the next Herb Ritts. In media circles, they are called “GWCs” (Guy/Gal with Camera). You’ve probably seen their work on Instagram or Facebook, advertising their “professional” services 10 minutes after reading the instruction booklet on their Nikon Rebel.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that these shutterbugs don’t have the potential to become the next Annie Leibowitz, but without proper training, experience, and respect for the craft its nuances and history, their photographic aspirations often end up on the dung heap of abandoned career ideas (right on top of massage-therapist and Cirque Du Soleil Acrobat). The same goes for bloggers.
The Right Tools are Half the Battle
It may come as a disappointment to the myriads of MacBook jockeys typing furiously at their local Starbucks, but having the right tools is only half the battle. Do I love my Mac? Sure! But it can’t make me a better writer, just as having the best microphone will not improve my singing voice (don’t even get me started on autotune).
Good Is Good
The reality is good writing is good writing, no matter what technology you are using to create it or the platform or format, or method of delivery. Whether you are just starting out or are a seasoned blogger, I contend that there is no excuse for banal, stale, and style-less prose--the cardinal sin of bad writing!
I don’t care if you are writing blogs for the Boring and Sons Accounting Firm, clichéd and dull writing have no place in the blogosphere, or any other sphere, for that matter!
No Second Chances
Today there so are many things competing for our attention. It’s not like the old days when your choice was watching 1 of 3 channels or listening to your grandfather reminisce about historic weather. Today the internet, smartphones, and Netflix have changed the game. With so many mediums all competing for the reader’s increasingly scattered (in)attention, now more than ever, you can’t afford to be boring!
Avoid Clichés Like the Plague!
One of the surest ways to have your readers tune out and turn off is to use overused, boring clichés. We hear them so often that they have become devoid of meaning. They also don’t reflect well on the company or organization you are writing for, as it gives off an uncreative, rote vibe.
Give your Verbal Skills a Workout
Instead of using clichés, exercise your verbal muscles and come up with something new, interesting and creative! For example, instead of saying “he’s a slowpoke,” why not try “he was slower than Jimmy Stewart reciting the Mahabharata on the back of an arthritic turtle on Quaaludes.” Too much? Well, you get the point! Shake off the clichés and delve into the creative territory! A good writer takes the ordinary--the everyday, and allows us to view it from a different angle so that it appears new and fresh--even exciting.
Don’t Wait for the Muse
Ernest Hemingway once said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at the typewriter and bleed.” Gory perhaps, but true. Writing, much like love, is not like it is in the movies.
Tom Cruise and Puccini
Tom Cruise will not do that intense running thing he does (in the rain) to tell you you’re “the one,” boomboxes will not be held above anyone’s head outside your window, Puccini will not suddenly be heard when you meet eyes with the cute guy in the laundry and detergent aisle at Whole Foods. Nope. Just as romance on the silver screen does not reflect real life, writing rarely (if ever) flows through you as if you are a vessel for divine prose. And, if you believe in waiting for inspiration or the “muse” to begin writing, you may want to read a little work by Samuel Beckett entitled Waiting for Godot. Just sayin’...
As my mother used to say to her English students, “there is no magic wand I can wave to make you better writers.” True. The only way to become good, even great, is to write! Write every day! This is where the discipline comes in. But the rewards, even if they come slow, are profound and even thrilling. When you start to place the words in just the right order so that they vibrate with life, you can become addicted to the high--and desire to keep chasing it.
There is so much more you can do to improve as a writer and blogger--too much actually for one blog entry. Please keep checking back on our blog site to read the whole series! I’d also love to get your feedback, ideas, and suggestions so that I can add them to this series!