I was digging in the yard once, for no particular reason. I wanted to see what was under the soil.
Only more soil, I thought at first. My nails were wrecked, blisters stung my fingers, my knees and shoulders were sore. But I kept digging and soon discovered, down there in the hole I had dug for an hour, that each handful of dirt held a universe of stories: dead bugs, wet leaf rot, powdered trees, bits of bone, glass, wood, the stuff of life.
Sometimes writing web content is like digging in the soil. I think anybody can learn to write decently, but what separates the writers from the strugglers is that writers are willing to get dirty. Often for no particular reason.
I guess I just can’t help myself. It’s weird, I know, but I’m always reading 3 books, looking at half a dozen web sites, talking to 3 or 4 people through text or chat, listening to music with the TV on mute, and picking up as much dirt as I can.
Understandably, most people don’t like to get that dirty, which may be why many find writing so difficult.
The truth is, writing is difficult. Period. Even for writers.
Writing is messy, time-consuming, stressful, frustrating, exhausting, and yes, dirty. After working on a piece of writing for hours, I often find myself in a post-compositional funk, like a thousand-yard stare. It’s creepy.
The Secrets of Good Web Content? Maybe…Maybe Not
In “writing school,” we learned all the cliched axioms, those mysterious, gleaming nuggets of vague advice:
- Show—don’t tell. The juicy details keep the pages turning. People relate to what they can see, hear, smell, taste, and touch.
- Hit the ground running. Most readers these days don’t have a lot of time to waste. They want to get to the point without a lot of annoying detours. This is especially true online.
- Cut to the chase. One of the funny things about the English language is that having so many ways to say something often leaves us tongue-tied or lugubrious. Finding a way to say more with less is the key to sizzling content.
- Write what you know. As writers, our job is to explain anything to everyone. If we don’t know something, we learn it. And fast.
These phrases seem quaint to us because we do these things instinctively. But most people just don’t have the time to develop their writing muscles, so these expressions sound like trade secrets.
The Value of a Good Shovel and a Tasteful Sign
But they aren’t real shovels. The real digging is in the writing itself. The right words can bring many new clients to your business. The wrong words, well, won’t.
Because the Internet is one big store that is always open, having the right words has never been so important.
We’re used to getting dirty to dig them up, finding the right tone, the tight phrase, the perfect flow. Good web content, like any other kind of writing, is more than just décor. It’s the nutrients in the soil that make your business grow.