Weaving the Social Mesh: Write What You Want to Know

I am often asked by friends and associates what they should write.  They want to know how to get people to read their blog, buy their book, get more followers on Twitter or more Page LIKEs on Facebook or lots of plusses on Google+.

My answer to that inquiry is always the same: “Just Write Something!” — and everything else will eventually fall.

That advice jumps in the face of two common writing canards: “Write What You Know” and its doppelgänger, “Write What You Don’t Know.” The first school of thought allegedly makes you an expert on your own selfie life; the second avenue of percussion quickly resounds into a research project where the self often goes missing.

I prefer to have people just start writing something and the process will begin to unwind as each word is placed next to another.  Thoughts and arguments and proof and prediction naturally soon follow.

In many ways, “Just Write Something!” loosely translates into “Write What You Want to Know” — and the result is the same even if the intention appears to be different.  You ultimately write for yourself, not for the benefit of others.  If you spend your writing days pleasing minds other than your own, then you’re just a content breeder and not a thought creator.

You really can’t know what other people want or think — because 99.999% of them want only what they’ve already experienced.  The new is fearful to them.  The invented is something to be loathed.  And so your job as a writer becomes much harder.  How to you budge a brain happily in stasis that is delighted not to mind a millimeter in any direction other than the circular one in situ?

The great authors find a way to relate the past to something new and unimaginable — and that’s how social change becomes one.  New thoughts happen harshly and without expectation.  Future thinking should always take away your breath and make your heartbeat faster.

You also should not want to be in the prediction game.  What was popular today with your readers will taste like an old yoga mat sandwich if you try to repeat the same moment twice.

There are certain guarantees you can test and examine to help hone the predictability of your craft.  One truth I’ve discovered is that anything Anti-Gun — be it a shared cartoon, a quick Twitter tick, or a more elaborate long-form article — always results in loss.

I can pretty much count on losing at least 10 Facebook Page LIKEs for any and every Anti-Gun update I post — and here’s where it gets interesting — if I post a Pro-Gun update, I don’t get any new LIKEs for the effort.

That incongruence of purpose can kill you as an author if you think about it too much — so don’t consider the aftereffects of what you write — just concentrate on being in the moment of knowing and let the consequences hit you as they may.

8 comments

  • Well written and excellent point — some of my most read articles have been those about which I knew not much but had my interest — and therefore led me to research and learn!

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  • It is a real conundrum sometimes – some of what I consider to be my best writing does not even register on the radar , and something I write off the cuff without much forethought gets the clicks. Ultimately I write for myself – but do wish the end results were more in tune with what I consider to be my better work.

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    • Right!

      Oftentimes I write something and I think it’s a grand-slam and it dies and other times, I write something fast and sloppy and it takes on a life of its own.

      That’s why we can’t guess or plan what we think we know will go — though writing about Apple or Google or David Cameron seem to be mining reader gold — but then familiarization and desperation sets in and repetition begins to pile up, and diversity of thought is the victim in the stretch for the expected.

      If you’re writing to sell advertising — you’re in a different and mind-numbing link-bait game — I prefer to take the long view and not the immediate enrichment.

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  • I guess like everything we are victims of circumstance , as time evolves so does what people find entertaining , or a must read . I really like watching the stats over time to see the trends and the most sought after.

    Oh I remember some of the blogging groups when I first started blogging and the paid for blogs that became – cannot remember the name of them now but it was guaranteed to change a persons style overnight.

    I also like going back and reading a lot of the older posts on here – which is easy to do now they are all in one place – there is beautiful poetry and exquisite writing .

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    • We change. The world changes. We write what we are seeking in the moment. That’s the beauty of our long history of articles because it creates our own fossil layer for digging and exploration.

      I do wish our older articles were better indexed by Google. There’s some good, rich, stuff there that isn’t being properly mined or presented in online search returns. I’m not sure how to fix that. Linking old articles in new articles helps, but there is still a lot of content that is sort of forgotten by the web.

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