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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 May 22, 2020

What Makes a Good Leader: 9 Critical Leadership Qualities

What Makes a Good Leader: 9 Critical Leadership Qualities

The word “leader” makes you think of people in charge, high-ranking people: your boss, politicians, presidents, CEOs…

But leadership really isn’t about a particular position or a person’s seniority. Just because someone has worked for many years doesn’t mean s/he has gained the qualities and skills to lead a team.

Getting promoted to a managerial position doesn’t automatically turn you into a leader either. CEOs and other high-ranking officials don’t always have great leadership skills.

So what makes a good leader? What are the characteristics of a leader?

Good leadership is about acquiring and honing specific skills. Leadership skills enable you to be a role model for a team in any environment. With great leadership qualities, successful leaders come in all shapes and sizes: in the home, at school, or in the workplace.

The following are some of the many characteristics great leaders exhibit.

1. A Positive Attitude

Great leaders know that they won’t have a happy and motivated team unless they themselves exhibit a positive attitude. This can be done by remaining positive when things go wrong and by creating a relaxed and happy atmosphere in the workplace.

Even some simple things like providing snacks or organizing a team Happy Hour can make a world of difference. An added perk is that team members are likely to work harder and do overtime when needed if they’re happy and appreciated.

Even in the worst situations, such as experiencing low team morale or team members having made a big mistake at work, a great leader stays positive and figures out ways to keep the team motivated to solve the problems.

Walt Disney had his share of hardships and challenges, and like any great leader, he managed to stay positive and find new opportunities. In 1928, Disney found that his film producer, Charles Mintz, wanted to reduce his payments for the Oswald series. Mintz threatened to cut ties entirely if Disney didn’t accept his terms, and Disney chose to part ways. But in leaving Oswald, Disney decided to create something new: the iconic Mickey Mouse[1].

The key is to break down huge challenges into smaller ones and find ways to tackle them one by one.

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Think about the lessons you can learn from the mistake and jot them down because sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn.

2. Confidence

All great leaders have to exhibit an air of confidence if they’re going to succeed. Please don’t confuse this with self-satisfaction and arrogance. You want people to look up to you for inspiration, not so they can punch you in the face.

Confidence is important because people will be looking to you on how to behave, particularly if things aren’t going 100% right. If you remain calm and poised, team members are far more likely to as well. As a result, morale and productivity will remain high, and the problem will be solved more quickly.

If you panic and give up, they will know immediately and things will simply go downhill from there.

Elon Musk is a great example of a leader with confidence. He truly believes that Tesla will be successful, which he has shown many times through his actions. He converted 532,000 stock options at $6.63 each, their value on Dec. 4, 2009, before Tesla went public. It was a hefty bargain considering Tesla’s stock price stood at around $195 per share at that time. He doesn’t apologize for his beliefs and has drawn fire from just about everyone for his political actions.

You can’t instantly become a very confident person, but all the small things you do every day will gradually make you more confident:

  • List 5 things you like about yourself every day (something different every day), and you’ll appreciate yourself more.
  • Work on your strengths and do your best to enhance them.

3. A Sense of Humor

It’s imperative for any kind of leader to have a sense of humor, particularly when things go wrong. And they will.

Your team members are going to be looking to you for how to react in a seemingly dire situation. It would probably be best if you weren’t stringing up a noose for yourself in the corner. You need to be able to laugh things off because if staff morale goes down, so will productivity.

Establish this environment prior to any kind of meltdown by encouraging humor and personal discussions in the workplace.

As a president, Barack Obama exuded confidence and calm during stressful situations. But he was also known for his “dad jokes,”[2] his genuinely funny speeches at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and appearing on Zack Galifianakis’s Between Two Ferns.[3] Obama’s sense of humor made him grounded, realistic, and honest, which no doubt helped during some tense moments in the White House!

Learn to laugh at yourself. Confident people laugh about their own silly mistakes, and when you do this, others will also trust you more because you’re willing to share your experiences.

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Be observant and learn from the jokes others make. You can also get a lot of inspiration from the internet.

4. Ability to Embrace Failure

No matter how hard you try to avoid it, failures will happen; that’s okay. You just need to know how to deal with them.

Great leaders take them in strides. They remain calm and logically think through the situation and utilize their resources. What they don’t do is fall apart and reveal to their team how worried they are, which leads to negative morale, fear, and binge-drinking under desks.

Great leaders do, in fact, lead, even when they’re faced with setbacks.

Henry Ford experienced a major setback after designing and improving the Ford Quadricycle. He founded the Detroit Automobile Company in 1899, but the resulting cars they produced did not live up to his standards and were too expensive. The company dissolved in 1901. Ford took this in stride and formed the Henry Ford Company. The sales were slow and the company had financial problems; it wasn’t until 1903 that the Ford Motor Company was successful and put the Ford on the map.

Get to the root cause of any problem so you can prevent it from happening again and learn from the mistake.

By asking “why” 5 times (or more) on why something happened, you can find out the key factor that caused the problem and can find the best solution to tackle the problem.

You’ll also learn how to prevent this from happening again in the future after finding out a problem’s root cause.

5. Careful Listening and Feedback

This is far more complex than it actually sounds. Good communication skills are essential for a great leader. You may very well understand the cave of crazy that is your brain, but that doesn’t mean that you can adequately take the ideas out of it and explain them to someone else.

The best leaders need to be able to communicate clearly with the people around them. They also need to be able to interpret other people properly and not take what they say personally.

The Dalai Lama, as a symbol of the unification of the state of Tibet, represents and practices Buddhist values. The Dalai Lama’s leadership is benevolent and aims toward truth and understanding, alongside the other Buddhist precepts. This is a great example for all leaders: if you want to give good directions to others, you have to get feedback from others to understand the situation properly.

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Encourage communication between team members and establish an open door policy.

Practice not interrupting team members when they’re talking. Instead, summarize what they say and ask for feedback after you have talked about your ideas.

6. Knowing How and When to Delegate

No matter how much you might want to, you can’t actually do everything yourself. Even if you could, in a team environment that would be a terrible idea anyway.

Good leaders recognize that delegation does more than simply alleviate their own stress levels (although that’s obviously a nice perk). Delegating to others shows that you have confidence in their abilities, which subsequently results in higher morale in the workplace, as well as loyalty from your staff. They want to feel appreciated and trusted.

Although Steve Jobs was known for focusing in on the smallest of details, he knew how to delegate. By finding, cultivating, and trusting capable team members, Jobs was able to make Apple run smoothly, even when he had to be absent for extended periods of time.

To know when and how to delegate work to team members, you have to be very familiar with each of them:

  • List out all of their strengths, weaknesses, and personalities.
  • Talk with your team members more to know about their passion and interests.

Take a look at this guide and learn more about delegation: How to Delegate Work Effectively (The Definitive Guide for Leaders)

7. Growth Mindset

Any good leader knows how important it is to develop the skills of those around them. The best can recognize those skills early on. Not only will development make work easier as they improve and grow, it will also foster morale. In addition, they may develop some skills that you don’t possess that will be beneficial to the workplace.

Great leaders share their knowledge with the team and give them the opportunity to achieve. This is how leaders gain their respect and loyalty.

Pope Francis has been unusually popular with many Catholics and many non-Catholics. His position isn’t totally traditional, which is part of his appeal, but he also has admirable leadership skills. Pope Francis’s TED talk[4] drew attention because he encouraged leaders to be humble and to demonstrate solidarity with others. This inclusive, kind, and respectful style of leadership is incredibly important for any situation.

It’s important to spend time talking with other team members individually to understand them.

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Find out team members’ current challenges and try to give feedback and encouragement so they will grow and do better.

8. Responsibility

Great leaders know that when it comes to their company, work place or whatever situation they’re in, they need to take personal responsibility for failure. How can they expect employees to hold themselves accountable if they themselves don’t?

The best leaders don’t make excuses; they take the blame and then work out how to fix the problem as soon as possible. This proves that they’re trustworthy and possess integrity.

Howard Gillman is the chancellor of UC Irvine. You might have heard of how the university rescinded a bunch of acceptances, and then changed its mind[5], This past spring, an unusually high number of accepted students decided to matriculate; the school initially responded by rescinding offers over things like missed deadlines. But the college realized this was a mistake and reversed its decision. Gillman and the university accepted responsibility and decided to move past their earlier bad decision.

Always ask yourself what you can do better or what you should change. Take responsibility and think about what you can do better to prevent this from happening next time.

9. A Desire to Learn

It’s safe to say that all great leaders will have to enter unchartered waters at some point during their career. Because of this, they have to be able to trust their intuition and draw on past experiences to guide them.

Great leaders know that there’s always something to learn from everything they have experienced before. They are able to connect the present challenges with the lessons learned in the past to make decisions and take actions promptly.

You can either recall what you’ve learned from your memories or search your notes (ideally, a software that you can access anywhere with things well-organized).

Warren Buffett, one of the richest people in the world, has mostly made the right calls. But in dealing with huge amounts of money, Buffett has also made several multi-million (and sometimes multi-billion) dollar mistakes. He has stated that buying the company Berkshire Hathaway was his biggest mistake[6]. From that poor choice, he realized that it was unwise to pursue “improvements” and “expansions” in the existing textile industry. Despite mistakes like this, Buffett has invested wisely, and it shows.

To effectively learn from the past, write down lessons you’ve learned from any mistakes you’ve made. Have all the lessons well organized, and when similar things happen again in future, take these lessons as references.

The Bottom Line

Leadership traits are learnable. If you practice consistently, you can be a great leader, too.

Make small changes to your habits when you work with your team, wherever that may be. Most of us aren’t presidents or CEOs, but we all work with other people, and our actions always impact others. This gives every person the chance to develop leadership skills and to stand out from the crowd.

More Tips on Leadership

Featured photo credit: Markus Spiske via unsplash.com

Reference

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