Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Taking a Stab vs Manufacturing Something to Say

(This post is part of my series: An Aversion to Marketing with a Fear of Bleeding)

Bloggers, particularly those doing it for professional reasons, are under a lot of pressure to "produce content" — whatever that means. There's the idea that it's important to post consistently, whether that's daily or weekly or some other schedule.

I've seen a lot of encouragement to "just write something." I think that's good advice, but it needs to be balanced the right way. It needs to be about taking a stab, rather than manufacturing something to say.

Here's an example of taking a stab:

If you were to read my whole archive, you'd notice that I've made several mentions of nonconsensual erotica. This is a subject I'm interested in, have a lot of strong feelings about, and would like to talk about more on this blog. However, I get nervous because I worry about getting it wrong. It's a complex topic that's volatile, and I feel there's a real risk of losing people forever if I'm not careful about how I structure what I say. A couple weeks ago, I spent most of an afternoon trying to compose a blog post on this subject, but got really bogged down trying to be crystal clear about everything and cover all the bases in that one post.

That's really never going to work. I'll stay stuck in fear forever if I don't take a stab and do my best at expressing a small piece of what I have to say. I'm not going to be careless, but in this case, it's better, I think, to say something about a subject I care about than choosing the alternative, which is to remain forever silent about a subject I care about because I'm not sure I can do it perfectly.

For things like this, blog schedules can be really helpful, because they push me to keep working at a subject and writing about it. Otherwise, I might start a super-long essay that's going to stay hidden on my computer forever because I'm nervous about it.

Manufacturing something to say is very different, and I think it's the shadow side of having a blog schedule. Here's an example:

Opinions take time, and sometimes I don't want to invest the time in developing a smart opinion. I just want to write a post in 10 minutes and check the box that I did this. Better yet, how about getting several days ahead? I, personally, am too nervous to throw opinions around in a situation like this because I'm afraid of being held to something I don't really want to believe. When I want to manufacture content, that's usually when I pull out the inane news posts and promo attempts.

Now I'm not saying all news and promo is bad. But I'm pretty sure it's not what people want to read. A person might put up with a bit of it if it occurs between thoughtful posts, but I have, as a reader, stopped my subscriptions to blogs that were too full of these. I just don't care about this stuff unless the writer gives me a reason to care by nestling it in the middle of truly substantive writing.

Recently, I came to the painful conclusion that manufacturing content is a waste of time. It just detracts from my blog and makes it boring to visitors.

I've seen other things that I suspect of being attempts to manufacture content. I've seen writers come up with a great headline and a few sentences of an interesting premise. Then they abandon that thought and go straight into an excerpt of their latest book. This is the worst, I think, because it disrespects both reader and writer. I really don't want to click on a post that I think is going to be about gay marriage rights or some similar weighty subject only to discover that the author hasn't put in the time.

So, to summarize, I think a blog schedule can be good if it pushes me to take a stab at a weighty subject I care about, particularly over time. This will help me to hone my thoughts and hopefully connect me to others interested in the same topic. On the other hand, a blog schedule is bad if it encourages me to dilute my good, passionate writing with fluff that I couldn't reasonably expect anyone to read.

See the other posts in this series here.

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