Having written more than a hundred content-backed technical pieces (tutorial writings to be particular) I thought I’m a writer. Without paying much heed, I started using the words Writer and Content Writer interchangeably in my LinkedIn introductions and other “about me” sections on the web. Writing a non-fictional piece, my first non-tutorial article, without any content backing was all it took me to shred this thought.
It made me realize that content writing is way different from other forms of writing and just churning out articles around a certain kind of content, be it a product, service or technology doesn’t necessarily make you a writer. The difference between content writing and the other forms is similar to say a nurse and a doctor.
While writing has many forms from creative, subjective to academic and screenwriting — the list could go on and on, content writing is the most distant sibling. Though I’d love to talk more about the different forms of writing, I’ll leave that for some other time and shift focus back to my stance — why writing technical content-backed pieces doesn’t make you a writer.
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
― Maya Angelou
Content Writing Follows A Template
Just like having a theme or a template for a keynote presentation is a boon for many(a major portion of the job is already taken care of), more often than not content writing follows a common format — introduction, body, conclusion. The most important prerequisite for a content writer is to have a deeper understanding of the subject at hand since that’s what matters more than the craft of writing. By following a strict format and a formal tone churning out pieces such as the how-to tutorials, cookbook recipes, and products review are fairly easier than say writing a personal story.
Unlike content writing, creative writing doesn’t have a standard flair or template and relies on the writer’s own storytelling abilities and point of view. The writer’s own craft and potential are at its full display when producing a colossal piece that isn’t backed by any source material.
Content Writing Lacks Creativity
Content writing is an art in itself and it does require an effort to keep the readers engaged in the material. Pulling together a compelling piece that puts across the information in a concise and clear way isn’t a cakewalk by any means. But still, content pieces have the backing of some reference information— be it the product you’re gonna talk about, technical specifications or code snippets. This doesn’t leave much space for creativity. In fact, churning out articles after articles, content-based kills the creativity to some extent. At the same time, creative writing or other forms, need more use of those creative muscles.
Content writing is fairly distinguishable from creative writing which relies more on your thoughts, ideas and emotions instead of screenshots, videos, code snippets, and graphs(all of which form the core of content writing).
In quite a few cases all a tutorial write up consists of is codes, illustrations and short summaries of “I did this and that in the above code” which shouldn’t be labeled as writing. Weak piece of prose in a content-driven piece can be ignored by the reader if the other aspects(like product specification) hits the bullseye.
The same isn’t the case with other forms of writing which relies heavily on the literature expression, and thoughts of the writer to keep the reader engaged and hooked. It takes a lot of courage and effort to share your own experiences. Entertaining the reader through words only is a challenge only a writer who delves in forms other than content writing would know.
Business Precedes Art In Content Writing
Unlike creative writing where the writer exposes their vision and thoughts or screenwriting which requires building up the characters with backstories and setting up the scenes, business is the topmost priority of content-driven articles. For this reason, content-driven articles often follow a persuasive tone to entice the target audience towards the product at the expense of art. When the sole purpose of content writing is selling or putting across information that too with constraints such as word limits, art takes a back seat and there isn’t much scope for the writer to express their own thoughts.
To sum up, content writing though a valuable craft that does require a skill set of its own, doesn’t really make you a writer. With tools such as SEO, references, and illustrations a writer’s voice and thoughts play second fiddle in the overall context of the piece with commerce/research/source material being the front runners. Writing is much more than just knitting content. It requires you to be completely naked in front of your audience(with respect to, thoughts, of course). In order to hone that craft and find your voice, exploring the other forms of writing is crucial.
Thanks for reading.