I try to make my blog valuable to readers, or else nobody would want to read it. How do you make writing valuable to others? Here’s 3 ways I do it:
Share Actionable Information
This is the easiest kind of post to write, because it’s basically a How To. Pick something you know how to do and tell others how to do it. Just make sure it’s something that doesn’t already have a How To written about it.
This post is a good example of an actionable information post, because I’m telling you how I come up with blog post ideas, ostensibly so you can do the same. There are other How to Write Blog Post walkthroughs out there, but many of them are oriented towards content marketers (here’s a really good one, by the way), which is a very different style than my blog, so I feel this is still valuable.
There’s all sorts of options for this topic. Think about anything you’ve ever done in your life, and what you wished you knew when you first started it. Then go and write down what you wish you knew, as if it’s a letter to your past self. As long as you add enough context, it will immediately become valuable to someone else. Just make sure you’re writing How To do something your audience cares about – but in a personal blog like this that will be whatever you care about.
How do you know what information people want How Tos on? Listen to what people ask you for! Indeed, that’s why Eric Ries decided to write a new book – he realized that people kept asking him the same questions, and he started knowing the answers. A perfect example of valuable information to his audience!
It doesn’t have to be something as complicated as lean startup tactics. I started my writing career like this, on my travel blog SpainWhatUp, documenting a year abroad in Barcelona. I would share my favorite spots, attractions, and to-dos in every place I visited. Whenever somebody visited me or asked for advice, I would send them the URL instead of racking my brain for old information. They think I’m genius, I don’t have to work hard, and everyone wins.
Some actionable information posts here include What I Wish I Knew When I Started My Job Hunt, and How To Find Hosts on Couchsurfing, and How to Network Unforgettably. These are things I know how to do that others may want to know about. The Job Hunt one, in particular, has done a lot of good for my friends embarking on one of their own.
For this one, think of what interests you. Instead of helping someone else with actionable information, help yourself by walking through your thoughts and sharing the journey in writing. By doing so, you will crystalize your own beliefs and provide a thought foundation for other to build upon. This is some of the best writing out there – where the curious writer is figuring things out for themselves as they go.
Of course, you’re going to want to edit that bad boy once you’ve got all your thoughts out on paper. Do some Googling too. Make sure what you’re wondering isn’t something that’s already been wondered, covered, and codified in a Wikipedia article somewhere – otherwise it’s not very valuable.
The catch here is that most of your thoughts have already been thought by someone else. That may be, but if they did and you can’t find it on Google, then who cares what they thought – it obviously wasn’t important enough to share.
Plus, other authors can’t bring your unique life perspective to it the way that you can. Maybe you researched a topic and came to different conclusions than the majority, and you’d like to put it out there in order to rebuke the prevailing opinion. Or maybe you are so ingrained in a subject that you know everything out there, but see holes in the thought framework that need plugging. That’s perfect for an article.
Whenever I found myself coming back to the same thought in the shower, I know I should write something on it, because by doing so I can stop thinking it and actually turn it into something, whether that’s writing or a more advanced thought. As David Allen says, “never have the same thought twice, unless you like having that thought.” Write it down and get to the bottom of it!
I can’t tell you how many times pieces I’ve written have inspired readers to direct me to further resources I would not have encountered on my own. How would they have known to show me such resources if all I had done was continue thinking idly in the shower?
So far we have shared information, and shared thoughts. The last one is a combination of the first two – combine information and make a new thought. This is the most dangerous of the 3, since many blog authors erroneously assume that blogs are merely for injecting your opinion into things. Remember, nobody cares about your opinions in real life except your Mom. And people on the Internet care even less. Think about any Facebook status, tweet, or Youtube comment sharing an opinion – how much did you care? I’ll wager very little, unless it was someone famous.
Don’t let your blog be like that. The only way to make your perspective valuable is to make is uniquely yours. Again, use your life experiences to color the narrative. Other people have many of the things you’ve done, but they haven’t done all the things you have, which means you can combine them in a novel way. Combine things that haven’t been combined before.
Make the assertion that X is really Y. Talk about how A affects Z, but nobody realizes this. Cast an existing story in a different mold. Relate that one passage that stuck out to you from the last book to something you noticed in real life. Find patterns.
Sure, you’re not creating a 100% new piece of writing, but rather combing existing pieces into something greater than the sum of its parts. This is textbook innovation. A popular misconception about innovation is that it requires the creation of something entirely new. Modern sentiment looks at the reality that nothing is truly original and concludes that innovation is just the recycling of ideas.
I’ve done this in pieces like Who Are You Paying With Your Attention, bloggers like Niels De La Rouviere do it with pieces like The Curious Case of The Word Sonder, and John Scalzi did it with his reaction to Atlas Shrugged. I would say that each of these adds value to the any reader, even if they already know about Snapchat, Sonder, and Ayn Rand. And if they didn’t know about the piecse it builds upon – all the better, now you have introduced more value!
Conclusion – Anyone Can do This
If you’re a person with interests, you can be interesting. If you’re interesting, your writing can be interesting. You don’t have to be a talented writer to have a useful blog. And the best writers out there all became that way by thinking a lot and writing a lot – that’s it. People tell me they love my blog and that I’m a good writer – but all I have ever done is written down my thoughts and made them public. Anybody can do that.
I know I’m not the only one thinking thoughts worth sharing out there. Write em down! Just as the old writing axiom says “If you’re bored writing it, then I’ll be bored reading it”, so the inverse dictates “If you’re excited writing it, I’ll be excited reading it!”.
Find your passions and share them. Maybe even through blogging. You never know what will happen when you put a piece of yourself online…