Writing useful content is a simple concept, yet what one defines as useful another may define as straight-up gobbledeegook.
In order to demonstrate, let’s look at two hypothetical writing situations. The first in which a hypothetical writer celebrates gleefully as trucks of money back onto his or her front lawn as a result of his or her writing prowess.
The second in which a writer tosses a crumpled-up piece of paper on top of a mountain of crumpled-up pieces of paper beside his or her desk like it’s 1992 and he or she is trying to re-live Stephen King fantasies of his or her youth.
Ready? Ok, press save on your document or put the pen down.
1. You’ve Convinced Yourself
You know you’ve Written something useful when you’re convinced of the value of your work. Let’s say you’re a marketer and you’re writing about lawnmowers. When you’re done, are you desperate to buy the lawnmower even though you live in a high-rise apartment? If you’re convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that the product is worth your audience’s time, chances are you’ve written something useful. This works for fiction as well. If you’ve ‘watched’ yourself in the world you’ve created then you’ve written something useful.
2. You’re Instantly Proud of Your Work
When you’ve written something useful you’ll feel a wonderful twinge in your mind. What is it, you ask? Pride? What’s that? Let’s face facts, client work isn’t always exciting. But if you’re proud of your work’s structure, how it flows and how tight the copy is, then you’ve probably written something useful.
3. You Relax & Forget About It
You know you’ve been successful when you quickly forget the work you’ve done. This is because you’ve invested all your thoughts relative to the subject into the post, article or webpage. When you slack off or take the easy way out, like neglecting subject matter expertise or research that would help your audience, it will nag on you. Publishing useless work is a sure way to keep writers up at night.
1. Your Audience is a Mystery
Whether you’re writing marketing content for an insurance agency or you’re inventing new characters for a high-fantasy novel about half-elf barbarian warlords, you’ll know you haven’t written something useful when you find yourself writing to strangers. Understanding the audience for which you write is the most important element of all when it comes to writing interesting, engaging material.
2. You Couldn’t Care Less About the Topic
Look, there’s nothing wrong with writing about a topic that doesn’t interest you if you’re being paid, but if you want the content to be useful, then it’s your responsibility to care about the subject matter. “But I just don’t care about diamond-encrusted doggie tiaras and I never will!” Then don’t write about them because you’re not helping the people who do care about those … things.
3. You’re Focused Exclusively on the Paycheque
First, if the goal of your writing career is to get rich, then good for you because you’re in it for the long haul.
If you’re focused on getting your work done quickly so you can move on to another billable hour then the work will suffer. You’ll produce unhelpful content and you’ll damage your reputation. We need to get paid, but it’s better to take the time to do something right, or risk paying for it in the long run.
Why do you write? To escape reality? To earn a living? Whatever your reasons are, immersing yourself in your writing is the only way to create authentic work that gets noticed. It’s why magazines such as LifeHacker are so popular – people want guidance as they navigate their lives, and the written word has never been a more powerful tool.
So make sure you wield your power wisely if you truly want be useful.
photo credit: 20111227 via photopin (license)