On attracting readers: Content — and crap

September 8, 2008

Big du-uh of the day: The writing blogs I checked all agree that, for driving readers to your blog, you must have a steady stream of Great Content.

Oh, fine. That’s just peachy. While such advice might work for some of you great minds out there, I frequently have days — like, TODAY, for example — when the contents of my skull must resemble COTTON CANDY.

So how does one jump start the old gray matter? Freelance Folder has a particularly good list of some original suggestions, including:

Write ‘crap’ without feeling guilty. We tend to assume that great writers write great stuff all the time. Face it — they don’t. Professional writers write even when nothing but crap comes out because they know that it’s part of the journey to getting the real gems. Steve Allen said to “write for the trash can,” meaning write without reservations about what people might think, just to keep your writing skills in shape. Try it when you’re feeling stuck — it really works.

I know this to be a widely used technique, because I have slogged through enough blogs that are comprised largely of “crap” — and their poor authors don’t know the difference. If they’d taken another look at their posts on another day, they might have seen the bits of gold glittering through all the dross. They don’t care enough about their writing to make it better.

Certainly, writing “on the fly” is one of the heady hallmarks of the Blogosphere, where everyone shoots from the hip, often in hopes of provoking a debate. But I’ve found I’m much happier with my posts when I let an hour — or a day — lapse between hitting “Save” and “Publish” (or, in a few memorable cases, “Delete”).

As one of my English teachers always intoned, “There’s no good writing, just good rewriting.”

And if you’re still stumped for content, I have the perfect, never-fail, crap-proof solution:

Please tell me a story. PLEASE. We’re all children at heart. We all love stories. A good story will help me tell my own story. Tell me about your best day, your worst boss, your biggest disappointment, your scariest moment, your first job, your brush with death, or fame. Tell me how you overcame your agoraphobia, your cancer or your eating disorder, or how you knew when it was time to leave your marriage. Please, tell me how you managed to cope with this grab-bag of experiences called Life.

I promise I’ll read it. PROMISE.

17 Responses to “On attracting readers: Content — and crap”

  1. Margaret Says:

    And, my dear… what about you? Tell US a story! Your most embarrassing moment, your greatest moment of joy…etc. Any bugs in your house recently? Mice? Spiders? There seems to be a proliferation of those around the blogosphere lately.

  2. Jan Says:

    I write fluff – my last two posts are proof positive of that. But it’s not fluff all the time. I post recipes, because I love to cook. I talk about parenting a lot, because it’s pertinent to my life. I try to be humorous, although I don’t always succeed. But I never thought of myself as a “great” writer. I just write. The good news is I believe I’m hitting a stride and feel more comfortable being my, ahem, lovely, opinionated self.

    We’ll see where it goes.

  3. Midlife Slices Says:

    I write whatever pops into my head. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s not but I think it’s helping me evolve into a place that is comfortable (to borrow Jan’s word) and me. I’ve gone from writing what I think others might like to hear me say, to writing for me and what I want to say. Saying what I want instead of what I ought to say is what I’m trying to say. LOL I can do that here. I can’t do that in real life so much, but it does pop out at times. Usually inappropriate times, but I’m gettin there. Thanks for giving us this thought provoking subject to examine ourselves and our writing. Now tell us a story MsMeta. Please?

  4. Duchess Says:

    Well, that’s exactly what I wanted to say to you. You write good, thought provoking stuff, but I like it best when you tell us about, for example, sneaking magazines in your dad’s drug store.

  5. Allison Says:

    Well, I write whatever comes into my head and fortunately, a lot comes into my head. But, sometimes the problem is, a lot comes into my head. Often, so much is in my head, that I become paralyzed and simply can’t write anything at all. Then, by the time the logjam clears, all the logs have gone down the river. It’s feast or famine.

  6. msmeta Says:

    Hey, I don’t expect you babes to hit a home run every time you step up to the plate, and I find your singles and doubles very worth reading. (Let’s see, can I beat this metaphor to death any more effectively?) Anyway, thanks for the comments, and I promise you kiddies a REAL story. Soon.

  7. ByJane Says:

    I write crap all the time. Like the post last night. I just started in one place and went wherever it took me. I was in a pissy mood when I started, but by the time I finished, I was happy again. So write CRAP! Forget about the stories. Just please yourself with your doodling online.

  8. [...] of posts recently that sort of just, well, resonated with me, I guess you could say.  First was Ms. Meta’s post about keeping the “fluff” on blogs to a minimum; tell a story, she instructs.  Hmmm – [...]

  9. Tricia Says:

    I’m a part-time fluffer. Maybe that makes me a fluffer-nutter…

  10. I love this post! Thanks for the great ideas. Perhaps my next blog post won’t be filled with so much cr@p!

  11. [...] 10, 2008 by Nothing Fancy I stumbled across Adventures at Midlife’s blog today (courtesy of Midlife Slices) and found her post about attracting readers humorous, right [...]

  12. Being new to blogging, I just hope I’m not batting zero! Thanks for sharing your tips with us. Great post!

  13. Plunger Girl Says:

    This is fantastic advice. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone back and read something and thought WTF was I thinking?!! Somehow it doesn’t stop me from pressing publish the moment I’ve read it one hundred thousand times to eliminate typos.

    I love your posts on attracting readers!

  14. [...] Posts Election 2008: Why shouldn’t we all get along?On attracting readers: Content — and crapQuote of the day: The antidote to deathThe Compleat Woman: Having it all in 2007On attracting [...]

  15. msmeta Says:

    Plunger Girl, at least you LOOK for typos. I shudder at all the blogs I run across that make the blogger look almost illiterate! Heck, even WordPress has a spell check!

  16. wordnerd45 Says:

    Hi there! Love what you have to say here!

    I love the “spitball” effect! Some times, what I find is funny or meaningful to me falls flat on its face. Some of my thoughts have garnered unexpected chuckles — I was just writing about something that annoyed me, didn’t realize it was funny in the end.

    But, the one thing I agree with is the “eventually you’ll find your niche writing”, which is happening to me right now.

    I “self-talk”. Mornings are reserved for chats with my muse, usually over the writing process. I’m loving this stream of consciousness dialoguing, because it is purposeful to me. If no one else cares to read it, then so be it!

  17. wordnerd45 Says:

    PS: sorry, forgot to add my signature:

    The Nerd

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