Sad but true – one of the great pleasures in life for me is settling down to see what delights Google Reader holds for me each day. I am a self-confessed feed junkie and I see no hope of a cure as long as there are wonderful tools to help me feed that addiction. I love to read the written word. I gather in all the threads of information and hope to weave it into something that is of value to me and maybe a few other folk as well, much like I work my Lace Bobbins to produce something delicate and beautiful – then I spot something and it’s not so beautiful anymore.
Having taken time away from the woman-machine interface recently I came back to my feed reader with a glimmer of excitement – what little nuggets of joy would there be for me. Then I spotted something and it wasn’t so beautiful any more. In some folders almost every post had a number in the title. Given that some folders contained upwards of 1000 posts, that is a lot of numbers! All I could hear in my head was the much trumpeted instruction ‘people like lists, numbers in titles are always good’. Everyone seems to be regurgitating lists ad nauseam.
There are numerous pundits out there on the interwebs expressing perceived copywriting wisdom, pouring forth their knowledge to the masses with gracious abandon. Some of them even give ’50 sure fire post titles’ or ‘100 killer blog topics’ and the like, which we slavishly gather up, storing them away for future use. In our minds we nurture the little glow that says ‘I’ll never be stuck about what to write again, I’ve got HUNDREDS of topics’. We leap up from our desks and wander off in the certain knowledge that the blog post we need for tomorrow will be simple, easy peasy, won’t take more than five minutes, this writing lark is a doddle .
Tomorrow comes, we haven’t thought about what to write because we have ‘The List’, don’t need to think any more. Newly sharpened pencil in hand, paper on the desk we sit down to choose one of those many topics and pour forth our wisdom and….. nothing happens. How can nothing be happening? We have the all-powerful list of what to write about so what’s wrong? What’s missing? We have no idea? Ooops – there’s the key word – idea.
We might have a list but we don’t have any ideas. Our thinking process has been supressed by dumping someone else’s on top of it. Instead of nurturing our own creative flow, we have abandoned it in favour of that of Pundit X or Guru Y. It’s like trying to put on the clothes of a size zero model when you are a comfortably built normal person. They won’t fit and they will look awful.
It leaves you feeling depressed, washed up and a complete failure. How on earth can you not write when you have ‘The Ultimate List of Every Blog Post That Should Ever Be Written’.
Writing is an art, whereas Copywriting is a skill, it can be learned. The techniques are the distilled wisdom of many years but they are only of value when applied to your ideas expressed in your writing, not the slavish adoption of somebody else’s. All that will do is stifle your creative flow. Instead of being an inspiration, that list of titles will become a strait jacket. I will bet as long as it is sitting on your desk, you will find it hard to come up with an original idea of your own, never mind write anything original or compelling.
Do yourself a favour, take on board the techniques but throw away the lists. You’ll find it a great deal easier to write something worthwhile, something that is true to yourself.