I’ve Learned That This One Thing (Other Than Wine) Makes Your Writing Better
They say liquid courage helps you speak sober thoughts. I love a glass of Merlot to unwind. But it’s not the wine itself that makes your writing stand out.
So what drives great writing, especially on the internet where there are waves of content everywhere?
Between 2009 and 2012, I edited blogs for my other website HeartsConverse.com (always looking for contributors by the way).
I sought new writers on Tumblr and through my social media platforms and asked them if they would let me re-post their content. One of the common responses I would receive is “I’m not a writer” or “I’m not that great.”
Although I’ve had my work edited as a professional writer, I like to stress that blogging does not have to be super intense. It is an informal platform.
Grammar is very important. But quite often, grammar wasn’t an issue for the individuals I reached out to.
Yes you should maintain truth (unless you are noting that your piece is a parody, fictional work, or an advertisement/sponsored post). But you do not need to be a New York Times Bestseller to be known for writing well.
The key to a great piece of work, whether visual, audio or in written form, is being open to telling a story that reveals an aspect of the human experience.
You might share something surprising, funny, challenging, exciting, sad, angry, embarrassing or happy that happened to you that no one knew about.
But it’s not enough to just tell the story. You must ask yourself how is the story adding to the reader’s world? How are you discussing the topic at hand in a refreshing way.
If you want more than your mom to read and share it, then you have to give your audience some sort of value. In the journalism world this is called an angle.
You can speak on how you learned from the past (hindsight) or you can speak on what you’re learning in a situation presently (insight). You might have a point of view that’s overlooked and people want to share your work because they are excited to finally see someone (you) represent them.
Some of my most popular blogs and articles I’ve written had an element of emotional vulnerability tied to it. I shed some skin but also figured out a way to make this lesson relate to other people.
I used this method in the piece I wrote about Solange last week. It ended up on the Huffington Post and was my most shared indie piece (outside of a major publication) to date.
Here are some other examples of blogs that resonated with me recently and did this successfully:
- “I Finally Graduated College” by Wilsar Johnson
- “How It Feels to Be 26, Single and Still Living With My Parents” by Kori Winters.
Also, I don’t think slang takes away from a good story especially if you are using your authentic voice. Last year, a Twitter user named “Zola” told a wild and twisted “based on a true” story that was so entertaining that it went viral.
There was nothing traditional about the writing. But so what. The story was strong and stuck with people. It is now being turned into a movie.
One thing you need to know is once you press publish, you are giving people access to your life and story. So if you have not come to terms with what has happened in the aspect of your life you want to share, then do not share.
When you decide to tell your truth on your platform it may be met with backlash.
Olympic track and field medalist John Carlos knows this well. He and his teammate Tommie Smith raised their fists while on the podium of the 1968 Games to protest the lack of black coaches. Controversy followed.
He recently reflected back on the experience of losing his wife, friends and his clout for his activism. He doesn’t regret anything.
“Fear is all around anyone who’s trying to make change,” said Carlos at Vox.com. “But the men and the women of this world step through fear and challenge this system so other people can have a better life.”
This year, Beyoncé who has a huge mainstream platform told her own truths through her music and performances at this year’s Super Bowl and was met with plenty of criticism. She may have lost some fans, but she gained more by opening up and telling her story in her work.
Me personally, after sharing my personal battles with heartbreak, insecurity, identity, etc. I have been able to connect with new people who have told me that my writing made them feel less alone about their situation.
Readers trust you more when you speak from lived experience. You can also use other people’s experiences as well as an examples if you don’t want to share your own.
Overall, if you want to build an engaged audience, you will need that trust. With that said, it could be worth lifting the veil if you want people to remember you.
With practice, you can pull this off without the wine. But there’s nothing wrong with having a glass or two for the assist.
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