Let me start by saying, just so I don’t worry her, the title isn’t about you, mom. I’m saying this to myself.
Right now, I am my own worst enemy. I know I’m a good writer. I know I’m reasonably intellgent. With just those two traits, I could be making money writing on the internet, and yet, in the past year, I have not even attempted this feat.
Because I don’t want to write the way I need to write if I’m going to write for the internet. In other words, I’m being stubborn.
Here’s the problem. With dating and writing, you get two conflicting sets of advice. The most common advice the single person and writer gets is: Be yourself. However, this is then followed with a hundred gazillion rules you should follow if you want to be successful. So what is it? Follow these rules, or be myself?
A couple of years ago I entered a flash fiction contest. We had 750 words to tell a story, The excercise was inspiring, and I felt I turned in a very creative and fun story. Then I read the winner’s entries. It was so confusing. They didn’t tell a coherent story. They didn’t even really follow some of the rules of the contest. It was like they picked the one with the most bizarre content. I didn’t enter another one, because I figured I was completely out of step with current trends.
It’s true for internet writing as well. The current trend is to fill your writing with SEO (Searh Engine Optimization) words. In other words, fill your page with words that will be found when someone is searching the internet. That’s how you get hits. That’s how you get readers.
It’s also necessary to keep it short for today’s short-attention-span reader. I wrote an article about meditation and gave it to a friend who is big in social media to read. Her response, “That might be the best article I’ve ever read on meditation, now cut it in half and put in a list.”
Aaaaaaahhhhhh! I do not want to be a part of the dumbing down of America.
So what do I do? If I write with my voice and if I’m myself, I will continue to write blogs like this one – not optimized for searching, not filled with cute lists that people can scan quickly, and probably getting very few readers.
The Yahoo Style guide sits on my shelf – a book that would teach me all I probably need to know about writing for the internet. I read it once, and despite a 4.0 in college, I didn’t grasp it, probably because I didn’t want to grasp it. I want to write how I write.
Is that so wrong? I mean, writers spend years finding their voice? Why bother when we’re just going to have to write in another voice?
Would it make more sense for me to continue to write in my style, perhaps drawing other readers who are sick of the style the internet has imposed on us, but likely drawing none because they never find me? I don’t know. Probably I just need to “get with it, grandma,” and learn to write like the kids these days want to read.
Tell me your thoughts. Are you a skimming list reader? Or do you prefer to put in a little effort and read some well-constructed prose from time to time?
I guess I will face my stubborness and pull out the style guide. Hopefully this old dog can learn a new trick.