Want a Unique Writing Style? Misuse the Software


My new favorite podcast is Song Exploder.

According to the tag line, it is “a podcast where musicians take apart their songs, and piece by piece, tell the story of how they were made.”

The best episode in my opinion (and I think in many) is the one where John Roderick (singer and songwriter for The Long Winters) deconstructs his haunting piece “The Commander Thinks Aloud.”

However, the episode that concerns us is “Plastic Soul” by YACHT. (I love the ALL CAPS.)

Claire and Jona from YACHT describe the song as a fun neo-disco piece about human suffering (that’s certainly one way to think about it) inspired by technology and French disco singer Amanda Lear.

But I’m not so much concerned even about the song. [Read more…]

The 10 Best Rough Draft Shows (So Far)


Online readers are a surly bunch. Mean, lazy, and stupid. I mean that in the best possible way, mind you. And, naturally, I lump myself in to that group.

See, when it comes to reading online, everyone is mean, lazy, and stupid. Makes you wonder if there’s something wrong with anyone who chooses a career as web writer.

The origin behind that harsh designation, though, is interesting. It’s how New York University philosophy professor Jim Pryor suggests his students view their readers.

His reasoning? It forces the writer to write clear, concise, and compelling copy

Which is what my podcast, Rough Draft, is all about. In just a few minutes a day I deliver essential writing advice you need to succeed online, four days a week.

But unlike most business podcasts (where interviews rule the roost) Rough Draft is a monologue.

It’s just you, me, and 15 years of experience working with top brands like KISSmetrics, Salesforce, Hubspot, and, of course, Copyblogger (where I am Chief Content Writer).

Tomfoolery included. [Read more…]

My Absurd Claim about Writing (3 of 3)

Piano hands

Do you prefer any particular music or silence while you write?

I find my productivity sometimes goes up when I’ve got the right music and the right cadence. Which phase I’m in determines what kind of music.

Sometimes I will just shut everything off and write in silence, but that’s unusual. I like music, and I think that in a lot of ways, I treat my writing as music.

My keyboard is not any different than the keyboard on a piano. I want to create an image in someone’s head that could be compared to the way music appears in people’s heads.

And when I think of the people who inspire me, it’s almost always musicians.

Now, I have my favorite writers, but musicians really inspire me because I think there’s something about music that I would like to be able to do, but create as a writer.

I don’t play any instruments, so I have to pretend like I play the keyboard.

Excerpt from my Writers File interview with Kelton Reid.

Absurd claims one and two.

A Simple Way to Get People to Believe Your Big Claim

Open Pickle Jar-001

Another way to get people to buy into your claim is to explain the mechanism behind it.

For example, let’s say a fitness trainer makes the claim that in just 14 minutes a day customers can add muscle to every inch of their body.

Notice what is NOT suggested: that these will be particularly big muscles. The implication is, at the very least, customers can achieve a toned body.

That’s still a big claim, but the trainer can bring it into the realm of believability by explaining how this can happen.

In this case, let’s say the fitness program involves a chair. The value proposition can be summed up like this: a 14-minute chair routine that builds muscle on every inch of your body.

Notice, too, the trainer used several of the previous tips to accomplish this.

One, the claim is very specific about the amount of time it takes and the equipment necessary. In other words, it’s heavy with details.

In addition, as part of the live presentation the trainer could demonstrate with a video. All of these factors help sweep aside skepticism.

Finally, he could add a creative guarantee, and his close rates are sure to go up.

This article originally appeared as part of this Salesforce article (which I am told by a source close to the company is their most socially popular post). 

P.S. Want a daily, but small, dose of essential web writing advice? Then check out my new podcast Rough Draft.

Image source

What In the World Is Wrong with These Bloggers?

Andrew Sullivan

I’m about a month late to this party. Oh well. It’s still important to address.

On January 28, 2015, Andrew Sullivan announced his retirement from blogging. For those who don’t know, Andrew Sullivan is the grandfather of political blogging.

That’s probably an understatement. Okay, he invented political blogging.

A few days later Vox followed up with a report on what it meant that Sullivan had created a popular blog, but couldn’t figure out how to monetize it.

This seems to be the perennial challenge, doesn’t it? How do you make a living from a popular blog?

Klein said there were two reasons: scale and the erosion of voice. In his own words, “the bigger the business gets, the harder it is to retain the original voice.”

Can’t argue with that. His next statement is more revealing:

He was trying to make his blog — and its sizable audience — into a business. But blogging, for better or worse, is proving resistant to scale.”

As if it was an enigma. Like we haven’t solved this problem a hundred times over.

But not so fast.

Klein is careful to define his terms. Blogging is “the unedited voice of a person.” (That’s actually Dave Winer’s definition, Klein notes.) It’s transparent, off the cuff, random.

We all know bloggers like this whom we love. Unfortunately, some of them don’t know how to go from popularity to profitability. Which is a shame. But it’s really quite easy to fix. [Read more…]

Writing Improves Everything (Absurd Claim 2 of 3)

Window Wood

You are the hack who butchers your ideas. It’s okay. That’s true for everyone. We butcher our ideas when we commit them to paper or hit publish.

But it must be done.

Otherwise we freeze. And never write. We fear the botched performance. The corruption of sublime ideas once they hit the atmosphere.

Corruption, however, is essential to creation.

See, there are two modes to creation. First, there is the birth of the idea, which happens in your head. Second, you turn that idea into reality (hit publish), which usually confirms your suspicion: the idea wasn’t that great.

But here’s the thing.

Rough drafts will almost never reflect your original idea. A rough draft reflects sloppy thinking. And the older the writer you are the better you understand that principle.

See, rewriting — an arduous taskhelps you to think clearly. So the more you write not only the better writer you become — but the better your thoughts become, too.

In other words, as your writing improves so do your ideas. But that’s not all.

Writing Improves Everything

Over time the opinion of your ideas decreases. Which should encourage you.

Since your ideas are not as great as you think they are the damage done by publishing them is diminished. So, you publish frequently. And frequent publishing forces you to come up with new ideas faster.

Which means more opportunity to stumble across a truly great idea. Just like any numbers game.

Image source: Leon Ephraïm

Absurd claims one and three.