I can’t say I’m one of those people who jump at the prospect of New Year, excited by all that “new chapter” stuff. I never took up any challenges or bothered with resolutions. If I want something changed, I usually come up with a plan as soon as possible. I don’t wait for January the 1st.
But here at the end of 2018, something shifted. Without any intention of having any New Year resolution, I somehow decided that 2019 must be the time of change. And let me tell you, I was determined to stop doing all the things that were frustrating and kept me in place.
Oh, the surprise. Without a warning, some of these frustrations originated from my own writing style!
At the end of the year, subconsciously but steadily, I grew more and more disappointed with my own work. Despite rewriting paragraphs or even whole articles at times, I hated -every- version of -every- copy I have created for -anyone-.
As soon as I noted the problem, I began looking for a solution.
I kept writing, but I also kept wondering what’s wrong with my writing style. Why did I suddenly loathe it? And was it really suddenly or have I always been feeling this way about my copies?
I was looking at all my articles, published wherever, and I hated the writing style, the communication, the voice… everything. It was stiff and artificial and it totally didn’t sound like me.
When I came back to one of the copies written several weeks before, I was horrified. Is THIS monstrosity how I -really- sound like a writer?!
Probably you wouldn’t be able to tell it on the outside, but my brain cogs have been spinning like crazy for quite a while as I was biting at the problem from every possible angle.
I went back to all the sources I was looking up to – the bloggers I enjoyed reading, the journalists, the writers, the publishers on Medium. I was not only looking at what they write but also how they do it. What was the physical structure of their copies? What were they better at, what were they doing that I wasn’t doing?
And then it hit me. I was enslaved by the best practices of content writing.
Now, it has to be mentioned, I’ve always been kind of self-taught. When I was writing stories as a teen, I used to analyse the writing style of my favourite authors to improve my own. When I started off a copywriter, I had no schooling, no experience, no teachers. Everything I have ever learned, was the knowledge I dug up all by myself.
If you spin in the world of content marketing for a while, you can imagine the formulas that a copywriter – supposedly – should be following.
There are keywords. There are enticing headlines. There are calls to action. There are leads and hell those are important ones. The copy must be scannable for those who are too lazy to read it fully. You must be a conversational storyteller but in the same time, you must be a guide that beams authority and wisdom.
And that’s where I come in, tangled up with all these formulas in my head. My every copy followed the same pattern. There was a lead, often sticking out like a sore thumb. Then there were points I was trying to make. And then there were conclusions that I always hated to write and never had an
That was it. Diagnosis: severe addiction to rules.
Now, you might think, what’s wrong with that?
First of all, it never felt like me. While writing the body of the copy was never that much of a problem, writing leads and conclusions was always a process of sweat, blood and tears. But I still tried doing it the sam way. In the back of my head, I always had this kind of a lead or conclusion that you often see in online magazines. I thought that was the right – and the only – way to do it!
And in the end, no matter how much I loathed those leads and conclusions, I stuck with them. I was so convinced that my copy will be bad if I step away. And I dreaded taking that risk.
But, while I was checking out different bloggers and writers in the online space, it occured to me:
People care less about best practices than I thought!
Rarely have I seen a “proper” lead into a post. The transition from the “lead” into “body” was often non-existent. It’s like these people were starting writing from the first sentence and jumped straight to the point.
Then there were subheadings, and conclusions, and the guide-like tone, and all that – practically ignored! And if they were, they were not in a form I was taught they were supposed to be in.
And yet, those were some of the most popular blogs and writers I’ve used to read.
I started to
What I believe now, is that when you write for someone else rather than yourself, and when you try to sell their brand rather than create your own, you may end up losing your own voice. And when you try too hard to meet all the technical and copywriting standards, you’re stopping to sound like a human.
My probably first New Year’s resolution ever will be to break up with the best practices addiction. I don’t know where will that take me and how will it affect the writing I provide for me and for others. But I’m willing to risk that stepping away from these guidelines will eventually help me write better. Because that’s what they should be – guidelines, not chains. And a writer’s words should always be their own.
Now, I’m telling not you this just
That’s correct. It’s March and I’m publishing something written in January. It’s been around bubbling and fermenting. So, where am I now?
I’m thinking less about best practises, but it’s still there. I’m still not always happy with my writing style. And I’m still wondering if it’s good enough. But if you don’t question yourself – do you ever grow and move forward?