Do you follow every piece of advice you read about writing? Do you try to adapt your writing to include every single piece of writing advice you can? Do you know where this advice is coming from? Are you sure the person you are taking advice from actually knows what they are talking about?
I write a lot of stories and posts on my blog that might be construed as advice. Heck, no construing necessary — it is advice! I hand out quite a bit of guidance on different subjects because I like to be helpful and I have something important to say about subjects I care about.
What makes me think I am smart enough to be handing out knowledge?
I have 53 years of a hard and interesting life behind me, and I would have to be dense if I didn’t learn something along the way. The advice is usually about mental health, and I give it as lessons from my own experience. If I give advice it’s because I’ve lived it or tested it on myself first.
I also give blogging advice, because I have been blogging since before there was such a thing as blogs, and I have learned a thing or two. Over the years, I have learned everything I could about blogging and I love to help others who are trying to learn the craft themselves.
I have been known to drop advice about writing as well, but only if it’s a tip that I’ve tried and it worked for me. Does that mean all the advice I give will fit every situation? No. And that is why you should be very wary about following every piece of writing advice you come across on the web.
I must admit I read a lot of “Top 10 Secrets to Better Writing” articles. Back when I was still a little wet behind the ears, I even followed every piece of advice, good or bad. I didn’t know any better.
These “experts” must know what they are talking about, right?
Not always. There are still people who read for an hour and feel like they’re an expert. Most of them are just stealing and copying the advice of other writers as their own and calling it a “secret method.” A lot of the less genuine influencers do this because they are always looking for something important to say.
On the other hand, there are plenty of writers who write about their own experiences and what’s worked for them. They write from a base of knowledge and hard-won experience in the trenches. They do it in the hope that it will help someone else.
I love that group of advice writers.
If you’ve read any of my writing, you know it leans more toward the personal side. I love a good essay. But, it doesn’t matter if it’s an essay or an article — I always add my personal touch. I write like this because it’s what I like to read, and it’s clear that many other people do too.
Through practice, I’ve developed my own unique voice.
I still have a long way to go to call myself a great writer, but I’m happy with my progress thus far. I’m confident when I publish because I have something important to say and I’m not afraid to be open and honest and write about the things that really matter to me.
I love to impart what I’ve learned through my experience. I don’t do it because I think everyone should follow my advice to the letter. I do it in the hope that they will become inspired by something I’ve said or written and find their own way of doing it.
I will admit that much of the advice I give is not unique — I’ve heard it somewhere else one time or another, and it worked for me. I wouldn’t call it stealing or copying because I try it on myself and write about what worked for me and what didn’t. That’s the key — I wouldn’t try to pass it on unless I’ve tested it on myself first. And I wouldn’t think to call it my own secret method.
But, not everyone is like that awesome group of advice writers. Or me.
What I’m trying to say is that not everyone is taking what they write seriously. These creators write about a subject because they know it will get clicks. They don’t write because they are passionate about it or have any experience and they don’t seem to care that people may take the advice and change their life or writing careers for the worse. Once they publish, they wash their hands and move on to the next hot topic.
Hey, they made their money.
Test the advice you absorb carefully because you don’t know if the giver of advice was coming from a genuine place. It could be utter bull-junk to them, and you could be hurt by their callousness.
With that said, I have some advice that worked wonders for me.
Are you confused about what to write? The best encouragement I could give is always to write what you love. If you love it, there is a darn good chance that a lot of other people will love it as well.
If you don’t like something, don’t write about it because you think it will get views. That is an ass-backward way to go about things. I know most advice from experts will tell you to search Google for trending topics and write about them. They suggest you look for viral topics, whether you know anything about it or not.
But, look at the writers who are killing it in the writing community. They write about their passions and subjects where they can share personal anecdotes. They write about things they know intimately. They do what they do best! And guess what? They are better writers for it and get many thousands of views, likes, and fans.
Look at Josh Spector for inspiration. He writes about newsletters and online media. He knows what he is writing about. Newsletters are a passion for him and he advises like an expert because he is one. Look at his numbers and tell me that following your passion is not good guidance.
Remember, when you try to force something on the audience, it’s as bad as trying to sell someone a busted car. The audience can tell when you are not being authentic and going for viral stardom.
The audience can spot a fake from miles away.
When writing, do what you do best. When you are thinking about what to write about, don’t do what everyone else is doing. Write from your heart, and you will never go wrong.
Do I ever pick a subject because it will be popular?
Yes. But I always take the opportunity to share my experience and only if I enjoy the topic, and I have an interest. If I know nothing about it and have no interest other than getting views, I don’t write about it.
Case in point. I’ve been reading about the Rich Dad, Poor Dad guy, Robert Kiyosaki. The story was interesting, and even though I've listened to a few interviews with him, I’ve never read the book. My interest is passing. Did I think about writing about him? Yes, but quickly figured out I had no interest, even though I knew the story was likely to go viral. I had no skin in the game and ultimately decided against writing on the topic. Could I have faked my way through the article? Yes, I have no doubt I could have done a great job, but my audience would have known I was being fake and going for clicks.
There is far too much impersonal and boring crap on the web. Instead of adding to the noise, write about the unique interests you have.
Don’t throw stuff against the wall and hope some will stick. What we need more of is people sharing their hard-won experiences on topics they care about and are willing to put their money where their mouth is.
The writing world will be a much better place for it.