The Most Important Thing Medieval Poetry Can Teach You About Blogging
Forget SEO and social media for a minute; this is more important
As bloggers, we can learn and steal from all sorts of texts and genres, even from poetry. I’m not saying you should rhyme on your blog, but there’s more value to multiple posts on one topic than some link juice and SEO. It’s not just a numbers game, either.
Think about it; what does Google want?
I’m as much of an “SEO guru” as Gary Vaynerchuk is shy and timid, so don’t expect any fancy technical secret that no one else has heard of yet. This is not news, either. To me, it’s only common sense.
Here’s why those algorithm updates or newsfeed features scare me as much as my little niece covered in a bed sheet: They all pretty much codify acceptable behavior, the kind we would expect from decent human beings anyway.
So when a “Facebook trainer” has to take the time out of his day to post a video about the fact that “you can’t randomly post links all over the place because the algorithm will render that useless” — well, good for you, genius. You figured out that you were as nerve-wracking as a chimpanzee in a library for the last ten years.
It’s been the same with Google’s punishment of invisible text (meaning white on white), and for a while even with affiliate links on Pinterest. Sometimes, we get a warning shot, and sometimes the platforms decide just to shut us down altogether. Well, not us, only those screaming, “Look at me!” anyway.
Yes, I know, there are also financial considerations involved in those decisions, like when Facebook decides to offer you a payment system, or — soon — its cryptocurrency system (as recently reported by the New York Times), but you can’t expect a company just to offer a free service. It lies in their nature to come up with ideas that generate revenue.
You Thought Flea Markets Are Just Piles of Trash?
Wrong, they’re wells of inspiration — if you treat them right.
And yes, you as writers and marketers need to look out for technical updates and your customers’ privacy, but I would make the case that you don’t need to worry about those as long as your intentions are good.
When Facebook decided to bring Instagram’s stories to their feed, it was just one more opportunity to reach fans, readers, and customers. So it’s a new technical feature. Additional work, but nothing to be scared about.
Pretty much any kind of “news story” around “scary” updates on social or — to some degree — SEO only lead to me saying, “Oh, really?”, just as I would when my mayor told me I could not defecate on the public market place in my hometown anymore.
So what does this all have to do with Medieval poetry?
I am so glad you asked. Obviously, I’m wired differently than some tech journalists out there, just based on my background in Medieval studies. You see patterns the way you’ve trained and preconditioned your brain. That’s why I see manuscripts and media-scientific aspects everywhere, especially in this day and age. It’s like the Sixth Sense crossbred with books — I can see metaphors and stories. They’re everywhere…
The genre I’m mainly referring to is Middle High German Sangspruch or Sangspruchdichtung, which mostly deals with politics, didactics, ethics, and scientific views on every topic imaginable, from courtly love to alchemy.
The primary aesthetic principle is this: The poets of those days chose one topic — the Virgin Mary, Jesus’ cross, peasants’ role in society — and they dedicated a whole collection of stanzas to said topic.
Each stanza was thematically closed, so you could read it individually and move it around in manuscripts, but there was some chronology involved, and the stanzas were still related.
Now, you could make the case that this is pretty much the case in all poetry, be that Shakespeare’s Dark Lady sonnets or even something as loosely connected as Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.
There’s obviously a spectrum on which different poets can be placed to indicate how close they stayed to one topic.
But one feature of Sangspruch doesn’t appear as dominantly in other poetic genres, at least to my view.
Poets in Middle High German Sangspruch diversify their perspective on each topic, through personification, didactic or scientific vocabulary, discussions in dialogue form, sermon-like stanzas, abecedaria, historical references, etc.
That, to me, is the ultimate analogy of what blogging and writing online should look like these days.
Don’t Be Arrogant. Earn Your Readers.
You may be good, but you don’t deserve anything.
We’ve read a thousand how-tos and best-ofs on productivity already. Mix it up!
The sky is the limit here, or rather your imagination and reading experiences. Here are some ideas that may help you see those old blog ideas through new eyes.
Don’t lock yourself in creatively by “staying the course.” It may be safe, but you’re also not allowing yourself to have some fun along the way. Gift yourself with a creative outlet.
- Why not mix alchemistic jargon or symbols into that blog post on slow cookers, just for the fun of it?
- Why not personify your cup of joe?
- Why not conduct an interview with your favorite writing app, book, online service, or beauty product?
- Why not write a package leaflet for your annoying coworker? — May contain traces of sarcasm…
Understand that blogging, too, can become an art form, if you allow it.
Maybe those pieces won’t do well because they were just a combination of topics that even Google considers too weird.
But maybe, just maybe, search engines will love you for coming up with those combinations they have never seen before.
And what’s more, your human readers will even love you more. You’re giving them a fresh perspective on the status quo.
Why should we read your blog reiterating the “best notetaking apps” as a listicle, without even considering your target group? — Just “the best,” really? Not even the best for entrepreneurs, writers, or homemakers? Okay…
This is not an advertisement for reading Medieval poetry, although you might be surprised how “modern” it can appear sometimes.
You can take those influences and ideas from anywhere — newspapers, billboards, or even the latest comic book.
Try to cross as many boundaries as you can, push your limits, and your blog will be as individual as can be. After all, why else should we read your story over others? There’s one blog for every seven people on this planet!
Just be yourself, be unique, and readers will come your way. If you only adapt, there’s no reason for us all to come over and join your newsletter.
Thank you for taking time out of your day to read my story. I appreciate it!
If this post inspired you to try out a new take on any given topic, feel free to share it in the comments! I’d be glad to check it out, give you some feedback, and share it on Twitter, provided it’s either a topic I enjoy, or your perspective is a fresh one.
Florian Führen is a story coach, copywriter, and novel proofreader. He’s currently working on his first book to get his Ph.D. in Medieval Studies. After that, he’ll take his first steps into the literary world as an author with a satiric stage play. If he’s not writing or coaching, he’s probably tweeting @FuehrenWriter. Care to brush up your story? Get in touch to work on your next creative project!