Is good writing enough?

Pencil with shavings I first thought about this in relation to blogging thanks to Jen. She had just been to BlogHer and seen Megan from Velveteen Mind on the panel:  Is being a good writer enough anymore?

It should be, right? Taking someone on a ride with words can certainly get you in the door. It can start a conversation. An exchange can lead to lord knows what. You need to develop a baseline in which you engage your readers. Think of this as your voice. You need to connect with readers and they need to get inside your head. If they like what’s up there, they will stay. If they don’t, well, they will go somewhere else. Simple as that.

Good writing is an essential starting point.  BUT IT IS NOT EVERYTHING. Imagine you get over the first hurdle, and you write your best, most thought-provoking post EVER. This post has the potential of really connecting with readers. I mean this post is so THERE. SPOT ON. AWE-SOME. You know it as soon as it flows off your fingers and you hit the publish button.

The problem is — no one knows you wrote this frigging fabulous post because there were 100,000 other posts published within ten minutes of yours and no one can find your well groomed words. It’s like thinking you are going to win the lottery. It’s just not going to happen.

If a post falls in a forest of blogs, and no one is there to read it, does it make a noise?

Maybe it does in your head. But don’t you want more people to read your post, comment on it, give you feedback. Make you feel like it was worth the hours you spent writing that gorgeous post?

You with me here? Then it should be apparent that no, great writing is not enough anymore. You need to start thinking about marketing, SEO, getting the word out. Pointing people to your blog. There’s a science to it. No this should not consume your style. You NEED to be a good writer. But you need to think about the other stuff too.

Thoughts?

 

Susanna Scott

Image: luigi diamanti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

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About Jennifer Howze

Jennifer Howze is the Creative Director and co-founder of BritMums. She blogs about family travel at Jenography.net, tweets at @JHowze and Instagrams at @JHowze. Previously, she wrote the Alpha Mummy blog at The Times and as a journalist has contributed to The Times, The Guardian, The Independent, The Wall Street Journal, Travel & Leisure, Budget Travel, CNN.com, Allure, SELF and Premiere, among others. She won The Maggie Award from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America for a health article in Seventeen magazine.

25 Comments

  1. 27 September 2010 / 09:45

    I think it really depends what your motivation is for blogging – huge audiences, income, and loads of comments may not be important to you if your blog is there mainly for personal reasons. I don’t do a thing to help promote my personal blog (as opposed to my business blog)and I like it that way – no pressure and complete freedom to concentrate purely on what I want to say, when I want to say it. Of course my business blog is an entirely different matter 😉

  2. 27 September 2010 / 10:18

    @Jude – excellent point. Sometimes it’s nice just to blog for yourself and let your regular readers enjoy it, rather than worry about promotion.

  3. 27 September 2010 / 12:31

    ulysses was crap with all that stream of consciousness, right? that james joyce fella needed telling. and what about that faulkner? he needed a lesson or two. and woolf! did she know what the heck she was doing with those women words? jeez, they needed an seo.
    (i apologise. you can delete it now. i just wandered by and i couldn’t resist ;-D)

  4. 27 September 2010 / 12:57

    Totally agree with Jude (but you knew I’d think that, didn’t you?) I’ve been wondering where to go with my blog, and I’m thinking if I enjoy writing it, and some people enjoy reading it, isn’t that enough? But I guess I’m lucky, in that I started blogging when it was very small in the UK, so it was easier to get readers. Starting a blog now must be much more intimidating.

  5. 27 September 2010 / 13:14

    You bring up a good point though, are the classics of today influenced by social media???

  6. 27 September 2010 / 13:17

    I can only echo Iota – I was lucky enough to have started my blog when the bloggosphere was rather small. You joined British Mummy Bloggers (and everybpdy was like ‘Wow, look, there is a new one!’), visited 2, 3 other blogs and woops, it took off by itself. Looking back most certainly feels like that’s how it was. Today, if you start a blog, it’s not enough to ‘only’ write well written post, you also have to think about how to make yourself heard. But then, there are also many many more readers out there.

  7. 27 September 2010 / 14:07

    AND I think this is the year it really explodes … we ain’t seen nothing yet.

  8. 27 September 2010 / 14:10

    Maybe we need to invent some sort of mum blog search engine… (sorry, that’s the Silicon Valley in me). More blogs, more readers, more diversity — that’s the beauty of the online world.

  9. 27 September 2010 / 14:16

    I think it’s important to know for yourself what your goals are. If you want to write it like a journal, then fantastic. If you want to focus on writing AND get a big audience, you know you need to pay attention to SEO and the like. If you want to go commercial, there are outlets for learning and doing that.
    I think a problem right now is the opportunity here. You can do it whichever way you want, but sometimes – if your blogging peers are pursuing another track – it can feel like you’re going your own way or missing out. I’m all about the big-tent philosophy. My new, post-AlphaMummy blog doesn’t have the same big readership, but for now, I’m content to let it grow organically, using the tools as my immediate disposal rather than going hammer and tong. That may change but I sometimes have to remind myself of WHY I’m doing it.

  10. 27 September 2010 / 14:19

    I blog because something funny has happened and I have to tell someone!

  11. 27 September 2010 / 14:20

    very true..we’re oldies aren’t we?

  12. 27 September 2010 / 14:27

    Interesting topic. When I started blogging over six years ago, you could pick up readers relatively quickly but at the same time, not much has changed, which is that if you want people to read your blog, you do have to do some stuff to put your blog out there. There are many more ways to do this now than there was back then, but the fundamentals haven’t changed. People who write a book still have to get their book marketed and a lot of effort and money goes behind this. You can grow organically (I’ve done that by and large for my blogs) and I’ve liked not exhausting myself plugging the crap out of myself. But it’s also being savvy enough to at least do the basics which is as well as writing great content, make sure you at least do good titling, tags, internal link, flag up how people can keep up with your content etc. Even though I blog for a living now, my passion for blogging hasn’t changed and neither has my reasons – I blog to get my thoughts out and discover and share new things.

  13. 27 September 2010 / 15:21

    i have to query the suggestion – ‘feel you’re going your own way or missing out’. (missing out on what?)
    that phrase ‘going your own way’ suggests that if you do not join the track, then you will be an individual beating a single path, a ‘loner’; a ‘no mates norma’.
    i feel i need to stand up against the implicit assumption that you’re with the crowd or you’re alone.
    we know that there are thousands of blogging interest groups out here crossing over each other. and what i have found, through blogging about particular issues ‘on my own’, is that i am not alone. far from it. there are thousands of other people in my interest areas. i might choose to join those streams rather than others. in the eyes of the increasingly commercialised world of the market-defined mummy blogger i may be ‘going my own way’; but so are thousands of others out here!
    in reality i’d like to see people do more of their own thing. i want them not to follow the herd. i want to hear individual voices shout out. it makes their blogs more interesting, however well or badly they write.

  14. 27 September 2010 / 17:42

    ancient!

  15. 27 September 2010 / 19:02

    This question comes up every now and then I pretty much have the anticipated comments memorized.
    You can read my original post here:
    http://www.velveteenmind.com/velveteenmind/2009/08/writing-well-is-not-enough-anymore-damn-it.html
    I cover the analogy of writing an awesome book that could spur wonderful conversations and to which other women can relate, packaging it in a plain blue cover, shelving it spine out with title in tiny font, and then complaining that no one is finding your book in the mega-bookstore.
    Must be because you aren’t in the right “book clique,” huh? Sure. That must be it.
    If you want more than your mama to read your blog, then writing well is not enough anymore, damn it. And then I beg the question, “Why aren’t you just keeping a scrapbook and journal under your bed if you don’t care if anyone other than you reads it?”
    … It’s okay to enjoy and want people to read your writing and talk WITH you. Amazing things can come of that and none of them can be deposited in your bank account.

  16. 27 September 2010 / 20:27

    Back in the old days, you could get people to read your blog by commenting on theirs. It was like opening a conversation with them. You left a comment on their blog, they came and read yours. If they liked it, they came back.
    Does this not happen any more, generally? I still do it. Interested to know.

  17. 27 September 2010 / 20:55

    Yes! That’s what blogging is: conversation and community. It’s not about the blog, it’s about an active community.

  18. 27 September 2010 / 22:36

    Iota – I don’t think it does happen now to be honest. there are definitely some i comment on which i’d love for them to comment back on mine, but… nada. Or maybe they do come but just don’t like!
    I like to blog to get a thought off my chest. I would just write a diary but my handwritings got so bad there’s not much pleasure in it any more. Sad but true. Plus I can’t find a diary nice enough. Also sad but true. I would like more readers but find the whole blog promotion thing tough. Especially now that that everyone seems to know everyone else off line as well as online as well… (except those who work Saturdays and couldn’t come in the summer!)

  19. 28 September 2010 / 08:45

    @grit – from experience and talking to other bloggers, I know that often bloggers see what others are doing and think, “should I be doing that? Am I missing out?” it’s nothing to do with being a Norma no-mates or being alone.
    By dint of being online all day, we’re exposed to new ideas and ways of blogging. It’s important to remember that while there are loads of new things to adopt, not every new thing is for us individually. You’re right, in that it’s all about individuality.

  20. 28 September 2010 / 08:48

    I find I’m commenting more than ever but because the number of blogs is exploding, I don’t get round to each my favourites as frequently.

  21. 28 September 2010 / 08:59

    I saw Megan speak at BlogHer on this yogic and she was amazing. It’s astonishing how telling people that if they want readers they have to go out and find them sparks hostility. Go read her original post now. You won’t regret it.

  22. 28 September 2010 / 09:08

    Megan, the book model only works if you conceive of each blog entry as a complete product which you are distributing and marketing. Then yes of course the distribution and ad channels are very important.
    But a blog entry is not necessarily a finished product. it is a process, an opening of dialogue, a sharing of resources, a conversation for ideas, a confiding of troubles, a way of offloading problems in the hope of solutions. in that sense the process is more important than the product.
    but you seem to suggest that a blog not in the product market is entirely personal, as if for journalling?
    I think life is more complex and nuanced than that simple 2-way split. i share resources and ideas with other people who are in similar situations to myself. i support a community politically, educationally, and give my voice to an area of citizen rights. i’m pretty sure i’m not alone. Step outside the product blogs, which are not huge, but concentrated, and you find thousands of people blogging about matters of personal interest, conviction and belief.
    you also make a point about audience (the tone is a little misplaced – i am not a child and my mama is dead). again, this depends very much on who you conceive the audience to be. I think within the context of your reply, I might know the answer to that one … People who can line your pocket. Well, all I can say to that one is, i don’t think of my audience in those terms.

  23. 28 September 2010 / 16:59

    It does happen, Iota, because I do it all the time. The first posts I look at belong to the bloggers who have taken the time to come over and comment on mine. I don’t always have time to comment back. I comment if I can but I would certainly read. You sound disheartened. Don’t be. x

  24. 30 September 2010 / 13:35

    Sometimes it is a bit disheartening. And stressful, when you don’t have time to go visit all the blogs you want.

  25. 18 December 2010 / 01:57

    I read all this with interest. As someone who is new to blogging I didn’t think about attracting an audience when I started. I am journalist and writer and I just wanted to write. After a month of very slowly taking the plunge and opening my blog to comments as I didn’t really want to receive a slagging – which of course didn’t happen as that’s not how bloggers seem to operate thank goodness – but it is the way people react to articles online so I was a bit nervous.
    Anyway I would just say that now of course I do want people to comment. And the most frustrating thing is that I innocently set up my blog on iweb and have yet to meet a single other human – or animal – who has done this – and just struggled to make the technology fit with it . One of the problems being people can’t comment – very ironic. People are commenting on the BMB blog – saying they would like to have written on my site but couldn’t and leaving their comments on my BMB page instead, So frustrating – but thank goodness I joined BMB or I wouild just think noone was interested at all!