Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Nov 17, 2012
I’m Mitch Mitchell and I approve this ad.
Many people think I just started writing when I started writing my blogs back in 2005. Truth be told, I’m a long time writer of all sorts of things.
I started writing my own little journal of things at age 12 because I was feeling lonely here and there. At one point I actually wrote plays, as I had a friend who’d started writing them, and we’d write these plays, more like screen plays, based on Star Trek types of things. I branched out a couple of times into sports, but in general it was science fiction. Then I wrote poetry for years, back to journaling when I started college, and moved into music and lyric composition. I started trying to write my first book when I was 22, eventually finished my first book when I was 42, and on and on and on.
I have written all sorts of things over my life, and in the last bunch of years I’ve written things for other people. I can honestly say that I’ve got more than 3,000 articles all over the internet, many in my name, many in other people’s names. When you decide to do writing to help make a living, you have to get to the point where your mind says it’s okay to give up your rights to something you wrote and let someone else put their name on it. After all, we all know that John F. Kennedy didn’t really write Profiles in Courage on his own, right?
In my mind, this makes me as qualified to talk about the concept of writing as anyone. Over the years I’ve written 42 articles that include writing as a category. Some have been educational, some have been commentary, and some pure frivolity. This one is a combination of educational and opinion; it’s intention is to make you think differently about the art of writing, if you will. Not necessarily structure; just things that you may or may not have ever really thought much about. And I’m talking only 5 things; otherwise, we could be here until Monday.
It’s possible that I might include something I’ve mentioned before, but I’m sure I’ll be addressing it in a different way. Are you ready for the journey? If so, let’s begin.
1. There’s a major difference between writing for yourself and writing for others. In this instance I’m not talking about writing articles that other people are paying you for, I’m talking about writing things that please you that others might not quite get.
When I write on my blogs, even though every once in awhile (by the way, that can be either one word or two) I’ll toss in a sesquipedalian word that others might not know (big word, direct translation is ‘foot and a half long’ word), in general I want to be understood by the masses because I’m looking for broad appeal. I want visitors, and I want people to comment on what I’ve written. So I make sure that my content is understood; I’m writing for others while I’m also writing for myself.
But there are those who basically write for themselves. They don’t care if you don’t understand what they’re trying to say. They love the words, they love putting a twist into something and showing how creative they can be. Now, they might share it, then wonder why no one is commenting, but truth be told they know why already; they always know.
There’s nothing wrong with this by the way. That’s why we have different styles of music such as pop, rock, dance, rap and country. That’s why we can have people in the same genre, such as classical, and have differences in style between people such as Handel, Beethoven and Schoenberg. But it’s definitely something you have to consider depending on the audience you’re trying to reach, if you’re trying to reach an audience in the first place.
2. It’s not writing that’s hard, it’s confidence. So many people say “I can’t write”. So many other people say “I can’t speak in front of others”.
When you think about it everyone writes, and everyone speaks in front of others. I don’t know a single person who made it through school, college or not, without writing something. In college I knew people who said they weren’t writers that wrote 100 page papers; ouch! The longest paper I wrote in college was 25 pages, and I only did that once. Teachers didn’t care about the length of papers; they wanted to know if you could capture your subject accurately enough and that was that.
For instance, my junior year one of my classmates in music history decided she was going to write her paper on Gregorian Chant. Her paper ended up being 121 pages, and that was in the day when you had to type everything, thus if you made a mistake and didn’t have a correcting cartridge (like I did) you’d have to start a page over. I wrote my paper on Beethoven’s 6th symphony, had 14 different references, and it came in at 17 pages. And I got the obligatory “B” that I got on every paper except one in college. She got a B+ on her paper which crushed her, and I knew that was probably the best she could do because her subject was too big; there are tomes on Gregorian Chant, which means it’s something that couldn’t be captured in even a 121 page paper.
This is the problem I see with a lot of blog and article writers. They think they have to write about the moon when they could write a very nice article on Mare Orientale that would get the job done. In other words, if your subject is really broad, break it into smaller chunks and aspects, for which you’ll probably have enough to write about that ends up being a relatively easy piece to read, and then do the same with other aspects of the same thing and you end up with lots of articles you can space out, thus creating lots of content.
Can you write? Of course you can.
3. The concept of blog post length is overblown. I have written on this topic but not quite in this way.
It’s pretty much recognized that if you don’t have a blog post of at least 200 words your page will quite possibly be ignored by the search engines. This doesn’t mean you can’t do it; just that it might not do for you what you’re hoping it’ll do if you’re hoping to improve your blog’s SEO. But some people only have images as a blog post with maybe one or two lines and they’re happy with it. That’s just how life goes, and it’s one of the things that people who love Tumblr enjoy, though I’m not necessarily a fan.
How many of you have ever seen the movie Amadeus? There’s a scene in it where Mozart has just finished debuting one of his pieces to his benefactor and is looking for his reaction to it. The man looks at him and says “There seems to be too many notes,” to which Mozart replies “There are only as many notes as I needed.”
Your blog posts are yours, and if you decide to write long posts, then write long posts. If you want to write short posts, then write short posts. The way I write, I just start writing based on an original idea and when I’m done, I’m done. This is going to be a long article, but when I started, I had no idea if it was going to be a standard blog length post or not. That’s how my mind works; I write as many words as I need. Some people won’t read it, some will. But if you want to know the truth, take a look at some of the highest ranked blogs and you’ll notice that many of them have relatively long posts. I’m just sayin’…
4. I often say that blogs are for one of three purposes; inform, entertain, or educate. Words are a totally different matter though. Even though the first three are absolutes, words determine whether you’re doing those things in a positive or negative manner, intentional or not.
You know what the biggest lie is that kids are taught? “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.” We all know that’s a lie; of course names can hurt you. Words can hurt. People online don’t get bullied by sticks and stones; they get bullied by words and images, but mainly words.
Some people do it intentionally, such as Limbarf (no, I never say his name the real way) and Coulter (I don’t give her the respect of using a first name). Some do it accidentally, and probably all of us at one time or another have written something that someone else has taken wrong or badly.
Intention can be an interesting animal in and of itself. I’m presently listening to a book on tape that started out as a historical book on the history of Harlem. The author, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, told the story of his high school basketball coach, during one game where his team was winning but not playing as well as he felt they should be, uttered the meanest racial epithet at his best player in the huddle, with all the other players around him.
The team ended up beating the other team handily, and the coach had him come to his office after the game and said that he knew if he used that word that it would inspire him to play harder the rest of the game. The problem is that the coach’s intention wasn’t the same as the player’s interpretation, and there’s no way it could be, and it ruined the relationship forever. This is an example of how one person’s intention can go very wrong, and why I always say that if you want to write in a controversial manner, you need to be ready for the consequences, which you can almost never fully know.
I recently dropped a guy I didn’t know all that well, but whose blog I found after he’d contacted me about something. He’d written a recent blog post that said, not a direct quote, that anyone who had voted for President Obama was obviously stupid and they deserved all bad things that were going to come from it. I wrote him and told him that obviously I was too stupid to work and interact with him and that was that. There’s nothing wrong with having opinions and there’s nothing wrong with sharing opinions. But there are limits that people who take an opposite position will allow, and if you’re not cognizant of that, no matter what your intentions are it will come back at you. If you’re ready for it great; if not, then either be cautious with your words or don’t use those particular words at all. You know you know better.
5. True writing is a form of self expression. Unless you’re being paid for it, you shouldn’t feel overly self conscious about it, although you will. Sure, I’ve given warnings about being controversial and offending people, but you can’t be something you’re not.
I get bored when I visit blogs that have articles that someone else has written. I’m not talking about guest posts; I’m talking about articles that the author says they’re writing, yet you know you’ve heard those words and seen that same exact advice before; kind of like what I fussed about back in March when commenting on another horrible article I’d read that gave blogging advice.
It was a topic of one of my live Google Hangouts, where one of the participants said that it’s possible a new person is just getting into blogging and hasn’t seen that advice before, so it might be pertinent to them. My argument was that advice might be evergreen but writing the same exact thing someone else wrote, in almost the same exact words, helps no one in the long run; I’d rather link to something and move on, but that’s me.
Here’s some advice that you should definitely take. Just write, finish, and move on. Whether you’re writing a blog, paper, book or shopping list, at some point you have to start it and you have to finish it. You can always go back and add or subtract whatever you wish. Writing is about you and your needs. If your need is to make money, writing is still about you but you just modify how you’re getting your message across. If your need is to try to promote your business, same thing. But if you just need to get it out of you… write, enjoy, live!
Done and out!