Do you know what I’m great at? I’m really great at doing nothing.
Seriously, when faced with a problem, I’m brilliant. I will pace, agitated, in front of the issue at hand. I will inspect it from all angles. I will research it and read blog posts and then, in a climax of paralytic angst, I will do nothing.
There are a million resources, if there’s one, about writing a bestselling book. About putting together a blog post. Do you guys know that the point of the first sentence of your blog post is to get you to read the second? And the point of the second is to read the third? And so on, until the last sentence, after the reader is lulled into the paralytic sway of your language, where the point is to encourage them to take an “action,” zombie-like, that benefits the author.
Look, I am all about leveraging social psychology to get people to do what you want. Any person doing business on the web has to think about getting people’s attention and keeping it. I mean, I need to buy groceries. And live somewhere, preferably with running water and electricity.
But when it comes to creation, let me tell you: no amount of reading people’s advice on how to communicate with your audience can substitute for the authentic expression of your own lived experience.
It’s so easy to get trapped in the information overload of the web. Do you do this? I am so, so excellent at using Google to waste my time. “How do you clean tomato seeds off of the carpet?” (That was yesterday.) Newsflash, Brenda: Pick up the seeds.
There’s this idea that everything has to be optimized, everything should be measured in terms of efficacy and immediacy and ROI. But, seriously, how does that make you feel? Do you come away from the thirtieth blog post on optimizing your twitter experience feeling energized? Do you feel great? Do you feel happy? If you’re anything like me, you feel like shit.
The thing is, we’ve been communicating with each other for hundreds of thousands of years. We’ve been writing fictionalized novels for hundreds of years, and people have been telling stories since the advent of human societies, thousands and thousands of years ago. We don’t need the internet to tell us how to fucking talk.
But we do. We’ve developed ourselves into a dependency. Since we can track people’s eye movements on Facebook and watch the way they read the web, we can optimize! Let’s optimize everything! Let’s fight about action colors and web design and word choice. Hell, let’s limit our blog posts and creative output to the 10,000 words that people use the most often. That way everyone will understand, even if they skim! Hooray!
Sounds great, right? It sounds like fucking Nineteen Eighty-Four. And I am the worst offender. I spend hours of my life trying to figure out how to make my creative output fit in the box. I want people to read my stuff. I worry that you skim, that I’m derivative. I have the same concerns and insecurities and frustrations as every content creator that has ever lived.
But the solution isn’t headers and action points and bullets. The solution is having a message that is worth listening to–and that hasn’t ever and will never come from a blog post. There’s no substitute for sitting and thinking and feeling and chasing what makes you come alive.
And if you try to dilute that message, that zest, that zeal, into a fucking how-to, it will destroy you. Lift up your creative capacity and tell a story. If you need help with the logistics, then get help with the logistics. But the first thing, for me and for you, is to grow your heart to the point of bursting and then catch the fire that makes you need to share it with the world.
And then, only then. Go forth and create.