The Most Important Lesson I Can Teach You About Writing Right Now

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about quality vs. quantity when it comes to writing.
The reason: I did some math recently.
If I’ve been averaging 3,600 words per week for almost four years now, that means I’ve written more than 691,000 words.
Um…that’s a lot of words. It’s kind of hard to wrap my mind around.
What I found a bit discouraging about this, though, was that only a portion of those words were ones I feel like truly made a difference. That I can look back on and point to as something I created that I’m proud of.
See, I’ve written hundreds of helpful blog posts and endless how-to's for my clients—which serve their purposes well, and it’s what they hire me to do—but not all of those posts have aged well.
(The good news for you: The topics I write about for this newsletter fall into the category “WRITING I’M PROUD OF.” You’re getting the good stuff, guys. In fact, some of my favorites are herehere, and here.)
But back to the topic.

This line of thinking brings up important questions for anyone who writes:

  • Is what you’re writing going to make a positive impact in some way?
  • Will you be proud of what you wrote six months from now?
  • Does your writing help other people?

Thinking about writing: Good vs. Great
Pretty much anyone can write and share their words online. Millions of blog posts are published every day—but that doesn’t mean all posts are created equal.
It wasn’t until I was hired to write a post for a new client this month that I realized how different some of my writing looks and feels when it has different purposes. (That published piece is right here, btw.)

This new client’s blog is positioned to take an entirely different approach than most other brands I’ve worked with: What they produce has…more of a soul to it.
It’s 100% story-based. They don’t churn out oodles of blog posts each month. Each topic is thoughtful and speaks to a topic that their target audience can relate with on a very personal level. No quick hacks, no 10X growth strategies.
So when I sat down to write for them, I was excited. The words flowed right out of me onto the screen. I was able to tell a personal story of my own, and it felt good to be writing about something I learned first-hand that I knew could truly help the reader.

It was different. Good different.
Should you ditch your current strategy?
So what does this mean?

Am I saying there’s no value in those very action-oriented, marketing-focused posts?

No, not at all. There’s still a place for those, for sure. Those types of posts are great for SEO, they educate readers—they accomplish a lot of different important business goals.
But it does mean that a different type of writing needs to be worked into the mix.
I saw this tweet from Basecamp founder Jason Fried, and it put the thought I’ve been mulling over into words:
“We’re asked: What’s your content strategy? Answer: Not calling it content. Not thinking of it as content. We write when we have something to share.”
Now, think about that. Who looks forward to reading “content”?
Content is a marketing term. It’s aimed at driving business objectives, not resonating with readers.
And this is the #1 lesson we all need to remember right now.
Writing isn’t just a marketing tactic.

Most interesting writing has soul. It has a person behind it. It connects with the reader on a deeper level.

At least some of your writing should be about:

  • Telling a personal story.
  • Being candid about both the good and bad we all deal with in our daily work.
  • Sharing experiences and offering up lessons learned in an authentic, genuine way.

Need an example? Josh Pigford, Founder of Baremetrics, did a nice job of this last week in his post “Everybody’s winging it.”

It's honest. It's human. It made me pay attention.

So what's the takeaway here?
Write things you can look back at in the future and be proud of. Be more open to sharing both the good and the bad. Tell more real-life stories. 

Your audience wants that.

This article originally appeared in my newsletter, A Cup of Copy. Sign up and get these free tips sent right to your inbox every other Wednesday.