Focus on Quality, Not Packaging
Instead of cross-posting to social media, let your words do the talking
It doesn’t matter how fancy the packaging is if you don’t have a quality product.
If you’re serious about writing then writing good copy is what you should focus on, not spreading yourself thin on social media and shelling out on ads hoping to get noticed. If you’re pushy enough, sure, you’ll get noticed but for all the wrong reasons and it won’t help you gain credibility as a writer.
For all the hype about personal branding, you the human aren’t the product, your words are. A solid piece written with flair will tell readers much more about your skills and dedication than any self-marketing campaign ever will.
Attention is a gift, not something you should demand or hijack, which is why I’m not a proponent of email lists for example. Instead, I make my email public so readers who want to get in touch to continue the conversation or ask questions can.
This flies in the face of all the advice self-styled platform evangelists hell-bent on monetizing every brain fart will give you. Then again, my focus remains on service writing, i.e. writing to and for people rather than at them.
And even though I have been on the internet since the mid-90s and working on it for a very long time, I refuse to live my life through screens.
Write with heart and let your words speak for themselves.
To me, all that matters is that my work reaches at least one fellow human and resonates with them, ideally giving them pause for thought. I write about inconvenient things that don’t often crop up in polite conversation. From domestic and sexual abuse to mental illness via suicidal ideation and involuntary celibacy, my goal is to spark dialogue.
Although I write personal essays that use my life as material, the only reason I do so is to try and humanize universal predicaments. My language is often dispassionate and factual because it isn’t my job to tell readers what to feel.
It isn’t a writer’s job to manipulate emotions; this is what marketing and advertising do because emotions sell. As a result, native storytelling has become a key element of personal branding, which posits every human is a potential brand or a product.
The personal branding trend disturbs me. Writers are expected to build their mini media empire online and outshine others with marketing, not quality content. There’s no shortage of listicles telling you how to make bank by hawking your work across several social media platforms.
However, there are few about doing work that honors our shared humanness in an enlightening and compassionate way.
Instead, privacy seems to have become synonymous with vulnerability. And yet, it is possible to write relatable copy without sacrificing every detail of your personal life or that of those whom you write about.
Voice, some editorial skills, and heart are all you need.
Finding and developing your writing voice takes practice and time, not shouting louder than everyone else on social media. At the risk of stating the obvious, persistence and the humility to accept that not everything you write will be worth publishing are key.
Eventually, you will come into your own as a writer, bearing in mind that writing is a lifelong journey where you never stop learning and evolving.
Also, not every piece will get traction or have mass appeal, no matter how much SEO you apply to it and how many inboxes you spam with it. Sometimes, execution will fail you or timing won’t be right.
This happens at all levels. Whether you’re a rookie blogger or a journalist, whether you’re starting out or have decades of experience, writing isn’t an exact science. While there are formulas you can apply and topics that work, they’ll likely make you sound like everyone else.
Before you sign up for that paid newsletter or buy that expensive e-book, ask yourself this: What does a human being even need a tagline for? And why are you so eager to teleport to your destination if you won’t even walk to the bus stop, buy a ticket, get on the bus, and ride it for however long it takes?
Much like social media, writing online is all about connection and conversation. Rather than focus on financial returns, focus on the human ones as those can change your life in many more ways than money ever will.
Words are how we humans come together, so let’s write up a better internet.
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor living out of a suitcase in transit between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.