Friday, December 20, 2013

Writing 2.6 - What to Write About

Guest Blog by Rich Voza, originally presented on his blog, Brainsnorts: Trashing Today for a Better Tomorrow. You can see it here.

Preface 1: I started this post thinking it would only be about three paragraphs, maybe 300 words. Not so.

Preface B: I am not writing this to criticize anyone’s blog or suggest that anyone should do anything any differently than what they’re happy and comfortable doing on their blog. I’m writing this because I’ve been asked a similar question, and I’ve seen similar questions posted on other blogs, so this is an extensive answer either to those bloggers who have asked or those who are thinking of the same question but haven’t yet asked it. I’m not suggesting that I’m any kind of a blog authority or writing lord. I’m nothing of the kind, but I like questions, both asking and answering, and I like being thorough. Sometimes. Also, these are my thoughts only. Every other blogger in existence might disagree with me, and that’s not only okay but probably good.

Someone recently asked why I blog. That wasn’t easy to answer. In a way, blogging can be like a comedian testing jokes in a small comedy club before going to Vegas or Atlantic City, but that carries the suggestion that I’m “going somewhere” after this. Not likely. My blogging originally stemmed from something at work. I had to send out daily, boring e-mails to about a hundred people. I knew those e-mails would be annoying, stupid, but necessary information.

So my goal was to make it a little entertaining and perhaps make someone smile a little. I admit that it gave me a little extra boost when someone with whom I worked a long time would reply to my e-mails and tell me how funny I was or that they never realized this other side to me. I tend to be very boring and monotonous in person until I get to know someone well enough to unleash the demon known as – Rich. After enough people said, “You really should be writing for a living, or writing comedy, or host a game show or something,” I agreed, but I still wasn’t sure what to do about it. So far, this blog is all I’ve done about it. But this post isn’t about me, although it certainly seems to be going that way. This is about you. Well, not you personally, but those of you who have asked me or posted questions about blogging.

Over the past two weeks I’ve seen more than the usual amount of blog posts in which someone did one or more of the following:

  • 1. Apologized for not posting often enough and promising their lovely readers that they will get his or her or both asses in gear and start producing more.
  • 2. Acknowledged that they just couldn’t think of anything to write about lately.
  • 3. Promised not to let that blog fizzle out and die like a previous blog.
  • 4. Asked readers to help decide what they should write about next.

  • I’ve also seen blogs on which the author posted a poll asking readers to vote for a favorite topic on which the author should mainly focus. Movies? Television? Music? Books? And I’ve also seen the blogs on which an author begins a story and asks readers to make suggestions on which direction the story should take. Now that I’ve made you read through about 600 words, I’ll get to the point, but it’s nothing you haven’t heard before.

    If you’re not sure what to write about, most people say, “Write what you know.” I disagree. I say, “write what you feel.” If you see a movie you love – write about it. If you read a book that bores you, or turns you on, write about it. If a driver on the road next to you does something that pisses you off and you’re thinking of giving her a flat tire, write about it. If you love to cook, take pictures of the process, sketch the details of the recipe, and write about it. If you love sports or political debates, park your laptop in front of the television, take notes, and write about it. And if you find yourself strangely attracted to the female news anchors of CNN, well, maybe you should keep that to yourself. You shouldn’t just write about things or topics without specifying how those things affected you. I don’t need you to tell me what the movie was about. I need you to tell me how it made you feel. If all I want are the facts, I’ll watch the news. No, not Fox News. Duh, I said “facts.”

     Every one of us has probably heard the words “write what you know.” Well, if I’m an electrical engineer, and I know electrical engineering, but I love hockey, then I’d said it’s better to write about hockey than electrical engineering. One particular blogger I know used to write great posts about lists of all kinds. Movies of the 60’s, breakfast cereals, sexy commercials, all kinds of things, all kinds of lists of things with his opinion on why each deserved to be anywhere from #10 to #1. After a while, he thought perhaps he should only write about one thing – movies, food, sexy things? So he asked his readers to vote, and I politely told him that was not a good plan. His readers were not there because they loved movies or commercials. They were there because they liked the combination of his style, attitude, and opinion. Readers did not care if he made a list of oatmeal flavors or golf courses, they just cared that he was entertaining in his presentation.

    He had a counter argument. “But blogs with specific topics have more readers than blogs that don’t have a specific focus.” Yeah, he’s right, but that’s because there are people out there who only want to read about food or cars or a guy pretending to be a girl and writing about “her” promiscuous exploits. So those readers had searched for blogs about food or cars or sex, and then those readers follow those blogs. True they might have more followers and “likes,” but that doesn’t mean those readers are enjoying it more. Those topic-specific blogs will likely have more views per day, but that doesn’t mean they’ll have more comments or a more interesting and rewarding conversation. I’d rather have 20 comments than 100 views because I’m not really about the numbers as much as I am about the interaction and conversation. I’d rather have two people give me their opinions on my book or movie review than 20 people just click on it and go away.

    The other question that comes up is how often to post, which, although it’s a matter of personal preference, I can at least give not a writer’s but a reader’s perspective. In the almost 500 bloggers I follow, there are some who post several times a day. Sometimes it’s all photography, each picture as a separate post. For me, that’s overkill. For photog fans, it’s a mother lode. After a while, I’m breezing through because I don’t have time to study them all – but I know I’m not the target audience. I also follow blogs on which there might be three or four new poems a day, each in a separate post. Having studied poetry extensively in college, I love reading and interpreting poetry, especially when I can sometimes leave a comment that lets the poet know that I can feel exactly what they were thinking. I love when that happens, but most readers don’t have time for careful reading of everything that we all post every day. Conversely, there are other authors who post only once a week or less. I wish they’d write more, but those carefully crafted, well-researched, and very entertaining posts just can’t possibly be produced on a daily basis.

    Please remember, neither me nor any individual is important enough for you to aim your blog at us. Those writers and photographers do not need to care one bit about what I have to say. They only need to care about how it makes them feel to write and post what they’re writing and/or photographing. So, if you’d like a one-sentence answer to sum things up, it would go like this:

    Instead of “write what you know,” consider “write what you want others to know.” And I want others to know how I feel about the movie I saw, the book I read, the mouse I accidentally stepped on, etc. And if I write it well enough, then you will know exactly how I feel because I will have chosen the right words so that you feel it too.

    About today's guest blogger:

    Richard Voza Voza has been writing since 4th grade when he forgot about a summer book report and created a story called Carrot Top Mr. Mouse, about a mouse ridiculed for his red hair. After accidentally becoming an English teacher for 25 years, he now takes writing seriously.

    The first volume of his short story collection, When the Mirror Breaks, has been accepted by Whiskey Creek Press. He is currently marketing a suspense novel called Woodbury Avenue, about a stalker in a quiet suburban neighborhood. Two other finished novels are Lizzie’s Journal (paranormal) and Room 317 (suspense).

    Most days he drinks coffee and wonders if anyone will read his blog, Other days he sits on the beach, listens to baseball, and watches the waves with friends and a cooler nearby.

    1 comment:

    Leave a comment!