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Here Is Why “How to Write” Is Much More Important than “What to Write”

Here Is Why “How to Write” Is Much More Important than “What to Write”

It’s hard enough to find the motivation to work. When you have to worry about concentration and creativity on top of that, things can get pretty awkward. Nowadays, with tons of information available at the touch of a button, creating the right kind of content can make all the difference for someone trying to gain more customers or readers. A lot of writers and bloggers are fully aware of this, but have a problem finding something worth writing about.

What if I told you that it is more about how to write for people, than it is about the actual content? People will rarely sift through blocks upon blocks of monotonous text, even if it holds all the answers that they need. You need to engage them. Sell your story.

Why is writing style so important? And how do you develop a great style that people will eat up?

The internet is all about sharing great content, and the competition is tough

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As people a bit more qualified than me have already pointed out, content that is relatively good and original has become the norm – it’s no longer the ultimate goal to strive for. The competition is just too tough, and people always have a few other browser tabs to go to if your writing can’t draw them in within the first ten or so seconds. However, when even the broadest topics have been covered ad nauseam, you can’t really hope to create something totally unique. I know – I’ve been there myself many times.

There is, however, some hope. Desperate writers have been using the old “everything worth writing about has already been written” line since Ancient Egyptian times. And yet good literature is still alive and kicking thousands of years later. This is because it’s more about the common themes and emotions, told with different words and through a prism of a unique worldview. People will be drawn to the same life drama as they always were – hope, dignity, overcoming adversity, just reward and poetic justice are the kind of things that rile up a crowd – but it’s up to you to find a good way to talk about them.

You have to pull the readers in right from the start

You can say what you want about Hollywood’s tendency to hire hack writers, cannibalize original stories and rush their scripts, but some of them really know how to hook their viewers. Choosing the right niche and topic is still important, as you want to write what you know. But you mustn’t get bogged down in the details. The first paragraph has to give the reader a taste of what is to come, and really sell your content.

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Good bloggers often let people know who they are and what they are about within the first few sentences. Something like: “Look, I’ve been a Batman fan ever since I saw him make a sly comment about Vicky Vale’s weight nearly twenty years ago. But I draw the line at Bat-skates and Bat-nipples”, is far more engaging than: “The 97’ Batman and Robin left this reviewer shocked and appalled”. The introduction is there to give the viewers some information about who the writer is and the kind of style he uses – they want someone who thinks like they do, but has the language skills to bring these thoughts to life in a fun way.

Tell a story

Even journalists, who try to stay objective in their writing and pursue truth through stone cold facts, are careful to create a storyline and take their readers on a journey. In the example form the previous paragraph, the first reviewer introduces himself as a lifelong Batman fan. He infers that he is prepared to go to great lengths, to suspend his disbelief, in order to see his favorite character in action. But that even such a devoted fan was disappointed with Joel Schumacher’s train wreck of a film.

When you dig deeper, you see that this is a story of a young boy learning about what it meant to be a man of principle through a fictional character that became his role model, only to have all his hopes and expectations broken by an industry who no longer understands their own creation, and is merely interested in monetizing a brand. There are multiple layers to the story, and they are all being hinted at within the opening paragraph.

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The whole piece might take you on a journey that explores social corruption and human greed, drawing parallels between Gotham’s crime elite and Hollywood producers, which ultimately cause a hero’s name to be tarnished. It’s no longer a quick recap of the film with a star rating attached to it – the article is now a story of its own, which the readers will find incredibly interesting, despite hating the very movie that inspired it.

Old themes are worth revisiting and putting a spin on

There is a common tendency for people who become skilled or incredibly knowledgeable about a topic to gloss over basics when they explain things to people. It’s fairly natural for someone who has mastered these essential premises to think of them as common knowledge, and try to build more complex ideas on them. However, when you are dealing with a growing online audience, chances are that you will come across lots and lots of beginners who still have trouble understanding the simple stuff. It’s always good to revisit the basics, and expand on them, making sure to give things your own unique flavor.

For example, loads of articles have been written on self-improvement and a number of related topics. You’ll see points like: “Go to bed early”, “Start walking an hour every day”, “Face your fears” or “Get out of your comfort zone”, repeated time after time. It’s usually a short paragraph with vague concepts and a couple of quick tips. However, books upon books have been written on learning to cope with fear in one form or another, and people can talk for hours about the different tactics, implications and potential pros and cons of going to bed early.

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A short paragraph just isn’t going to cut it. A better strategy is to tackle the whole health and self-improvement topic from a more personal angle, and tell people what they can see, hear and learn during those hour long walks. If you cover your own personal experience and accounts of other people, it’s much easier for the readers to relate. Don’t paint things black and white or paint an idealistic picture – get down and dirty, and write about what it is like to be human. You can apply this to anything – food bloggers can explain how they got their kids to try out new foods, tech writers can write a piece about living technology free for a week, and so on. Take something people want to read about, and make it your own.

People want to hear a story told by someone whose writing they find fun and engaging, because we all ultimately love a good story-teller. Here’s a good modern example from the world of vlogging. Many gaming YouTube channels, like PewdiePie, have gained immense popularity with gameplay footage, while other similar channels struggle to gain 1000 subscribers – the only difference here being the presentation style and personality of the different YouTubers.

So, remember: Focus on developing a creative style based on your worldview. There’s only one you. Tell us your story and be passionate about what you write.

More by this author

Vladimir Zivanovic

CMO at MyCity-Web

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

For the original article by Celestine: 13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

“We all have problems. The way we solve them is what makes us different.” ~Unknown

“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” – Hans Selye

Have you ever experienced moments when things just don’t go your way? For example, losing your keys, accidentally spilling your drink, waking up late, missing your buses/trains, forgetting to bring your things, and so on?

You’re not alone. All of us, myself included, experience times when things don’t go as we expect.

Here is my guide on how to deal with daily setbacks.

1. Take a step back and evaluate

When something bad happens, take a step back and evaluate the situation. Some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. Are you the only person facing this problem in the world today?
  3. How does this problem look like at an individual level? A national level? On a global scale?
  4. What’s the worst possible thing that can happen to you as a result of this?
  5. How is it going to impact your life in the next 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?

Doing this exercise is not to undermine the problem or disclaiming responsibility, but to consider different perspectives, so you can adopt the best approach for it. Most problems we encounter daily may seem like huge issues when they crop up, but most, if not all, don’t have much impact in our life beyond that day.

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2. Vent if you have to, but don’t linger on the problem

If you feel very frustrated and need to let off some steam, go ahead and do that. Talk to a friend, complain, crib about it, or scream at the top of your lungs if it makes you happy.

At the same time, don’t get caught up with venting. While venting may temporarily relieve yourself, it’s not going to solve the problem ultimately. You don’t want to be an energy vampire.

Vent if there’s a need to, but do it for 15 to 20 minutes. Then move on.

3. Realize there are others out there facing this too

Even though the situation may be frustrating, you’re not alone. Remember there are almost 7 billion people in the world today, and chances are that other people have faced the same thing before too. Knowing it’s not just you helps you to get out of a self-victimizing mindset.

4. Process your thoughts/emotions

Process your thoughts/emotions with any of the four methods:

  1. Journal. Write your unhappiness in a private diary or in your blog. It doesn’t have to be formal at all – it can be a brain dump on rough paper or new word document. Delete after you are done.
  2. Audio taping. Record yourself as you talk out what’s on your mind. Tools include tape recorder, your PC (Audacity is a freeware for recording/editing audio) and your mobile (most mobiles today have audio recording functions). You can even use your voice mail for this. Just talking helps you to gain awareness of your emotions. After recording, play back and listen to what you said. You might find it quite revealing.
  3. Meditation. At its simplest form, meditation is just sitting/lying still and observing your reality as it is – including your thoughts and emotions. Some think that it involves some complex mambo-jumbo, but it doesn’t.
  4. Talking to someone. Talking about it with someone helps you work through the issue. It also gets you an alternate viewpoint and consider it from a different angle.

5. Acknowledge your thoughts

Don’t resist your thoughts, but acknowledge them. This includes both positive and negative thoughts.

By acknowledging, I mean recognizing these thoughts exist. So if say, you have a thought that says, “Wow, I’m so stupid!”, acknowledge that. If you have a thought that says, “I can’t believe this is happening to me again”, acknowledge that as well.

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Know that acknowledging the thoughts doesn’t mean you agree with them. It’s simply recognizing the existence of said thoughts so that you can stop resisting yourself and focus on the situation on hand.

6. Give yourself a break

If you’re very stressed out by the situation, and the problem is not time sensitive, then give yourself a break. Take a walk, listen to some music, watch a movie, or get some sleep. When you’re done, you should feel a lot more revitalized to deal with the situation.

7. Uncover what you’re really upset about

A lot of times, the anger we feel isn’t about the world. You may start off feeling angry at someone or something, but at the depth of it, it’s anger toward yourself.

Uncover the root of your anger. I have written a five part anger management series on how to permanently overcome anger.

After that, ask yourself: How can you improve the situation? Go to Step #9, where you define your actionable steps. Our anger comes from not having control on the situation. Sitting there and feeling infuriated is not going to change the situation. The more action we take, the more we will regain control over the situation, the better we will feel.

8. See this as an obstacle to be overcome

As Helen Keller once said,

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

Whatever you’re facing right now, see it as an obstacle to be overcome. In every worthy endeavor, there’ll always be countless obstacles that emerge along the way. These obstacles are what separate the people who make it, and those who don’t. If you’re able to push through and overcome them, you’ll emerge a stronger person than before. It’ll be harder for anything to get you down in the future.

9. Analyze the situation – Focus on actionable steps

In every setback, there are going to be things that can’t be reversed since they have already occurred. You want to focus on things that can still be changed (salvageable) vs. things that have already happened and can’t be changed. The only time the situation changes is when you take steps to improve it. Rather than cry over spilt milk, work through your situation:

  1. What’s the situation?
  2. What’s stressing you about this situation?
  3. What are the next steps that’ll help you resolve them?
  4. Take action on your next steps!

After you have identified your next steps, act on them. The key here is to focus on the actionable steps, not the inactionable steps. It’s about regaining control over the situation through direct action.

10. Identify how it occurred (so it won’t occur again next time)

A lot of times we react to our problems. The problem occurs, and we try to make the best out of what has happened within the context. While developing a healthy coping mechanism is important (which is what the other helping points are on), it’s also equally important, if not more, to understand how the problem arose. This way, you can work on preventing it from taking place next time, vs. dealing reactively with it.

Most of us probably think the problem is outside of our control, but reality is most of the times it’s fully preventable. It’s just a matter of how much responsibility you take over the problem.

For example, for someone who can’t get a cab for work in the morning, he/she may see the problem as a lack of cabs in the country, or bad luck. However, if you trace to the root of the problem, it’s probably more to do with (a) Having unrealistic expectations of the length of time to get a cab. He/she should budget more time for waiting for a cab next time. (b) Oversleeping, because he/she was too tired from working late the previous day. He/she should allocate enough time for rest next time. He/she should also pick up better time management skills, so as to finish work in lesser time.

11. Realize the situation can be a lot worse

No matter how bad the situation is, it can always be much worse. A plus point vs. negative point analysis will help you realize that.

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12. Do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it

No matter how bad your situation may seem, do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it. Life is too beautiful to worry so much over daily issues. Take a step back (#1), give yourself a break if you need to (#6), and do what you can within your means (#9). Everything else will unfold accordingly. Worrying too much about the outcome isn’t going to change things or make your life any better.

13. Pick out the learning points from the encounter

There’s something to learn from every encounter. What have you learned from this situation? What lessons have you taken away?

After you identify your learning points, think about how you’re going to apply them moving forward. With this, you’ve clearly gained something from this encounter. You’ve walked away a stronger, wiser, better person, with more life lessons to draw from in the future.

Get the manifesto version of this article: [Manifesto] What To Do When Things Don’t Go Your Way

Featured photo credit: Alice Donovan Rouse via unsplash.com

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