by Meg Dowell
We are in a weird era of online publishing right now. The internet is a mix of personal essays meant to be empowering, listicles meant to be funny and news stories meant to be accurate. The more of these genres of content get tossed around, though, the less appeal they have. I’m pretty sure if I see another article about body positivity – as much as I support the movement and appreciate the idea behind it – I’m going to lose it.
I feel the same way writing right now, too. Which is very unfortunate, because the one thing you do not want to be while writing is bored.
Sometimes I feel trapped, even obliged, figuring out ways to send the same message in a different way through writing. Trying to find an angle that hasn’t been attempted before. Trying as hard as I can to use my linguistic superpowers to finally get the point across to someone. Yet in doing that, I find myself bored and frustrated. I don’t WANT to keep writing the same things. It just keeps happening.
I do not legitimately have obsessive compulsive disorder, nor do I mean to downplay its severity as I make the comparison I’m about to make (mental health is never something I will joke about intentionally). I think we get stuck on a thought, sometimes, the way someone who lives with OCD does, as writers. This same thing we want to get across keeps popping up in our articles and essays and blog posts. Obviously it’s because it’s a subject we care about, and that’s not all bad. Not only does it get boring for us, though; it becomes yet another cliché for readers, too.
We don’t just need more diversity in storytelling (within reason …). We need more diversity in the things we are talking about.
This is not the way traditional “journalists” think. They look at what is trending and do what they can to optimize on that. This is frustrating to me. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I don’t want to keep reading the same things, or writing the same things. I want to talk about things other people aren’t talking about. I know what’s trending, I know how to forecast those trends, because that is what I was trained to do as a magazine editor. Sometimes I still struggle with the fact that I am either too far ahead or too far behind trends in my own writing, and that makes writing professionally very, very hard.
Yet for a client today I have to write only about things they are sure readers are going to click on. All listicles, which is a kind of content I appreciate but do not prefer to write for 80 percent of my paycheck. I don’t think the issue is clickbait at all (that’s a completely different subject entirely). I think the problem is that we are all bored, yet the next thing has yet to emerge.
Do you ever feel like you keep writing the same thing over and over? Here is what I have learned: we all have things we want to say. There are also things that need to be said. These two things do not always match up. But like many other things, balance is essential. If we only write things no one wants to read, we won’t be successful. If we write only things other people are interested in, we will get bored.
This is why free writing – writing on our own time, just because – is so important. We have to write about what we are interest in, too – even if not very many people end up clicking on it. It doesn’t matter how many people see it. You wrote it; it’s still important.
I’ll admit that I haven’t been doing enough of that lately – writing on my own time – and if you haven’t noticed, it’s affecting the way I write here. This is not a personal blog. Lately I’ve been struggling to give you my best, because I’m overwhelmed and haven’t been able to utilize another outlet to get my thoughts in order. Bear with me. Remember that writing just for you is healthy. Do more of it. Forget about traffic, forget about a byline. Say what’s on your mind. Say something different than what everyone else is saying. That’s how you keep that motivation flame burning.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.
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