8 Ways to Nurture a Diabolical Bent for Originality

Need to Talk

You get content marketing …

Crank out some blog posts. Gush out some guest posts. Build links. Share content on Google+ or Twitter. Pin images to Pinterest. Hot dog it in a LinkedIn Group Discussion.

But your greatest problem isn’t creating enough content because we’ve been taught how to make content fast six ways to Sunday …

But since when was efficiency a mark of good content? Or that speed was even desirable? What’s the pay off? Most likely a fatigued, alienated audience (so don’t be afraid to break your content schedule).

This is where I agree with Mars Dorian on the notion of substance over style. But I’d qualify it to be substance with style.

Yes, Your Content Needs Substance …

Substance is a Wikipedia article on the American Civil War. Vienna, Austria. Virgil. People love Wikipedia. So does Google. So it pays to imitate Wikipedia … to an extent.

Wikipedia favors the anonymous. The article without the style. But we are not into the anonymous any more. We are into the thumbprint that says “I’ve been here.” We are into color and texture.

We are into the author. The author who stands out.

But Your Substance Also Needs Style

It begins with a healthy scepticism of the status quo … a healthy curiosity for the strange. It survives on a fear of the mediocre … of disappearing into the crowd. Of blending in with the thousands.

That scepticism, curiosity, and fear, however, is a part of my nature. My makeup. And it’s got an obsessive quality to it. One you might not be able to imitate.

Can you do anything to nurture this same obsession?


Here’s the deal. Our scepticism, curiosity, and fear won’t ever be the same since we have different childhoods, parents, brain and body make up … but I do think you can nurture a sense of the unique and create original content (that you hope will get copied, which is not bad — I’ll explain in a future post).

Here’s how.

  1. Read wide. Read new books and old books. Read books on economics and history … read biographies and memoirs … read text books and magazines. Read. Read. Read.
  2. Build a wicked vocabulary. Highlight words you don’t understand … and then look them up.
  3. Talk to people who don’t think like you. Spend a half hour listening to them, asking them questions. Do this at coffeehouses, lounges. On Skype or Google+ Hangouts. Seek first to understand. And then end the conversation. You can seek to be understood through your content.
  4. Seek iconoclastic images.
  5. Experiment. Process through all you’ve learned by writing. Test new things, new words, new headlines and images. Play with other mediums like photography and music.
  6. Dig into the thesaurus. But before you use a word, understand what it means.
  7. Follow rabbit trails. Give yourself the freedom to chase stories that don’t matter … to pursue irrelevant ideas … because, in the end, they do matter. You are building a reservoir.
  8. Develop a sense of humor.

Let’s break the first one down (read wide) to give you an idea of what to do. Here’s what I’ve read in the last 24 hours:

  • Psalm 33 from the King James Bible
  • Three poems by Ezra Pound
  • “Glory,” an essay by 16th Century essayist Michel de Montaigne
  • Four poems from the current edition of the Paris Review
  • An article about a neighbor from hell in the Tampa Bay Review
  • Chapter from Daniel Dennett’s Freedom Evolves

Remember, you could read the exact same things I read … and we will walk away with different ideas. It’s okay. Your originality — not mine — is what we are after.

See, the problem with giving advice and formulas is your mileage will vary. The best I can do is give you a framework. You have to do the rest.

But here’s the deal …

You can do it. Don’t be afraid. Create. We are waiting for you.

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  1. says

    This advice is awesome sauce.

    Since I have the privilege of knowing you personally and have worked with you in the past, I can vouch for the authenticity and truth of this.

    Even though I scored an INTJ on the Meyers-Briggs test like you have, people who know us can vouch we are still different in many ways… Temperament. Personal Style. Interests. Things you mentioned.

    My point is this… I appreciate your encouragement for each of us to be who we are…. It’s good for other writers to pay attention to the teachings you and other great role models provide, but we can’t be just like you. We must know who we really are and embrace it. For example, we can take your wisdom and read a lot, but we don’t have to read the exact list of things you read for the principle to work.

    I think what I’m trying to say here is that young writers can spend a lot of their time trying to emulate a writer they look up to, when instead they should spend some time figuring out who they really are. I’ve done the emulation thing in the past, when I should have accepted who I really was and loving what makes me unique. Then, letting that out through my keyboard.

    Your teachings help us write better, that’s for sure.

    But embracing who we really are helps us create original content, doesn’t it?

    I hope this makes sense. I know you already know this, Demian. Maybe this comment will add to somebody else’s reading?

    Time for some more coffee…

    • says

      That’s a great comment … a beautiful expansion of my thoughts with a superb example (you and me). I appreciate the time you took to share this. Love you, brother.

  2. says

    Do you read to your kids? Because in a typical 24 hour period, a lot of my reading skews towards grade school and middle school. Let’s see… in the last 24 hours I have read:

    Who Would Win? Komodo Dragon Vs. King Cobra
    Judy Moody’s Mini-Mysteries
    The Invention of Hugo Cabret (2 chapters because they begged for another and I, too, wanted to see what the mechanical man was going to draw)
    Storm (meteorology novel written in 1941 assigned to my 6th grader’s enriched science class — dense, difficult and boring. So, I read ahead of him in case he wants to discuss the tough-to-follow parts)

    And for me: The World’s Strongest Librarian — halfway through that. Awesome book, by the way.

    Sadly, I think I need more “reading-for-me” time. But, there’s going to come a day when the boys don’t want to be read to anymore, so, I’m going to soak it up now while I can.

  3. Scott Worthington says

    Boiled down to the barest of bare bones, I hear you advising writers tor read widely, experience life fully, and write in your own style. Oh, yeah, don’t forget to give the reader real value, whether it’s a blog post, a how-to, or a poem. Have something to say, then say it well.
    Another brilliant lesson, Demian. And another 3 hours spent chasing links, and links of links, and so on. You never fail to build on what you have already written. Always moving forward and leaving a trail of bread crumbs for others to follow.

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