If you are a writer or blogger, there’s one thing you will never run out of — writing advice. The more you want, the more you get. Some of them are good. Some of them aren’t.
Then there come the ones that challenge our artistic dignity (ego).
These pieces of advice don’t make us feel special. They don’t tell us how awesome we are just because we exist. They don’t tell us that audiences will show up no matter what.
Nor do they encourage us to follow our selfish creative needs.
Instead, this school of thought makes us put our audiences before us, focus more on the process and less on self-delusion, and get back to work instead of waiting for inspiration.
Can you imagine their sheer audacity!
If writing is a hobby to you, these pieces of advice might be too cold, rude, or discouraging for you. However, if you mean business, you better start acting upon these bitter tips sooner than later.
Here are a few pieces of bad writing advice that help me thrive as a full-time online writer.
Bad Writing Advice #1: Write Every Day
Some people find these three words more triggering than LGBTQ jokes.
I’m not kidding.
I know it because I was one of them. I used to come up with bizarre excuses so I wouldn’t have to write every day.
Sometimes, I would say ‘reading every day is more important than writing every day.’ The other times I would suggest that publishing every day will lessen the quality of my work.
While I made myself believe that I was holding my integrity as a writer, in reality, I was:
• being lazy
• and confusing writing every day for publishing every day
Let me be clear here.
If you work on a diverse set of topics, make it interesting for the mass, and back it up with quality content, publishing every day isn’t that bad of an idea.
The most successful online writers I know do just that. Sometimes, they would even publish multiple times a day. And it pays off.
But as a beginner, you are better off not taking that much weight on yourself. Instead, simply writing every day will do just fine.
It will give you necessary practice time, make you ask the right questions, earn new skills, and boost your stamina.
Keep it up for 90 days, and you will see the difference.
Bad Writing Advice #2: Go for Clicks Through Your Headlines
And back it up with equally amazing content.
I learned this from Ayodeji Awosika. While most people stigmatize spicing up headlines, he bravely declares:
To this day, no matter how in-depth, nuanced, well-researched, and balanced the content of my articles is, I will use a click-bait headline.
Why does he do that? Here’s why:
Understanding the building blocks of a great headline means you understand the building blocks of persuasion in general. Understanding persuasion makes you a better writer.
Whether you realize it or not, online writing is nothing like traditional writing.
Here, you have to seize your audience’s attention as fast as possible and then hold onto it till the last word.
So the secret sauce isn’t to water down your headlines, so they honestly represent your stale content.
On the contrary, your goal should be to come up with crazy headlines and then overhaul your content; so it delivers on that hype.
That’s how you use clickbait without the overpromise.
Bad Writing Advice #3: Keep It Simple
I’m an Indian in my late twenties with a college degree in English literature. I have never visited a foreign country. And I have only started working with clients abroad recently.
So I had never communicated in English as much as I’d spent studying it. And in our schools and colleges, they hated us for using simple sentences.
It went to a point where we weren’t allowed to write ‘I am hungry.’ Instead, we would write, ‘Borborygmus from my empty stomach is getting too loud to ignore.’
It took me a while to figure out that I was not in my literature class. And people had better thing to do than carrying a dictionary and calculator to figure out what I’m saying.
They have a far better option — click away and never return.
Here’s something I should have learned earlier.
If you are writing for an audience, the word count doesn’t matter — the impact behind those words does.
Which brings us to…
Bad Writing Advice #4: Make It Shorter
Don’t waste your readers’ time.
Again, in my earlier days, I would write articles with 10+minutes reading span.
I will drag on my intros to the death, throw in long elaborated stories, and include all kinds of stats and studies to show off how hard I was working.
And it worked. No one ever called me a hack. But these long-form articles took me so long to write that I would only publish four to five pieces a month.
Most importantly, I was asking too much of my readers when I could deliver the same message in a much smoother and crisper presentation.
And they started falling off.
It was then that Elizabeth Dawber, the former editor of Startup offered me this piece of advice.
It took me a few weeks to get used to it and a few months to get really good at it. But when I started compressing my articles, the results were magical.
• When I had a word limit to abide by, it pushed me to be more creative with how I use my resources.
• I could get more done in less time. So I had more time to shine it up through the editing process.
• Soon after, my shorter pieces started outperforming their larger counterparts.
Bad Writing Advice #5: Published Is Better Than Perfect
I straight up stole this one from Neeramitra Reddy.
You can’t plan a viral article. So the strategy to narrow your focus down to publishing only fewer ‘quality articles’ can be a risky one.
As Jari Roomer rightly points out:
If you only publish one article a month, you only have one shot at getting views. But if you publish ten or twenty articles a month, you increase your odds of success by ten- or twenty-fold.
But you can’t do so if you are suffering from perfectionism. No matter how hard you try, not all of your work will hit 100%.
If anything, this mindset will keep you mediocre as it will prevent you from getting your work out and learning from the reader reception.
So if you want results, you have to hit publish more often. And in Roomer’s words:
To help you publish more often, adopt the ‘80% is good enough’ mindset. I know, it sounds like a lousy mindset, but it’ll actually fuel your success as a writer.
In the end, if you ask me for online writing advice, I will say it’s less about popularity and more about credibility.
While you can get more eyeballs at you by questionable means, being credible takes more discipline.
Is it instantly gratifying? No.
But if you keep at it, sooner or later, it pays off. That too with dividends.