Basking as I am in unremitting obscurity and blinding anonymity I’m not entirely certain what value my own words and thoughts possess but I have observed that some things assist more than others when developing ideas and written concepts. Some generic or general things and broad principles I use to help me write and which are offered as advice you are completely free to ignore:
- avoid Facebook as much as possible: it consumes time wastefully with vast quantities of advertising, white noise and random bullshit; it completely dissolves your ability to focus on any concept for longer than two or three minutes. How many dinners have you burnt while burrowing into post updates on Facebook ?
- use Google+ as an incubation ground for ideas; aggregate communities and people you are interested in and then create and generate your ideas as responses to shared articles and thoughts. You don’t even need to post them, just use the environment to assist you develop your own ideas and concepts. If you use multiple devices, Google+ provides relative online sanity and a tidy interface where you can create and store your own ideas privately, if necessary, and without excessive distraction. (No, I do not work for Google, but I do maintain a presence there).
- Tweet if you absolutely must or if you possess a burning desire to express minimalistic or haiku revelations about what sandwich you ate for lunch or how stupid such-and-such a politician’s ideas and statements are. Be aware that complex ideas and powerful thoughts are not easily captured in 140-character containers.
- in regards to Instagram, Snapchat, etc. – these things will not assist you to learn to write unless you are writing about them. If, conversely, you are seeking a career as an underpants/lingerie/lifestyle model living in the Costa del Sol from your lucrative endorsement deals, you probably don’t need to worry too much about developing your mind or ideas.
- if you do feel compelled to make public statements on miscellaneous social media, feel free to remediate, amend and edit them – you are not going to produce your magnum opus or profoundly deep world-shaking aphorisms on the first attempt. Ernest Hemingway once said something which has been variously mistranslated, misquoted and creatively reinterpreted along the lines of: “there is no good writing, there is only good re-writing”.
- WordPress is long-form social media. Avoid mindfulness, life coaching and psychological self-help unless you really know what you are talking about; the vast swathes of people attempting to achieve something in that space are crowding out the useful voices with white noise and guesswork. Stick to what you know, unless of course those topics are actually your passion – in which case, all power to you. 🙂
- use compelling images with your posts where possible: the half-life of social media and online writing is accompanied by the fact of the diminishing cultural and individual memory (- it is an irony of the proliferation of information and data that we are becoming progressively less able to retain it within our own skulls). Images can assist impact but competent written content will float on its own without assistance, i.e. be judicious in your use of imagery. Pinterest can be useful but be aware that anything you view will likely be broadcast to every single person you have ever had an online connection with; because: digital cross-marketing and identity farming. You can create your own visual branding or track down fascinating images in a million different places online. Be aware that if you are making money out of your words that the owners of any particular image may come looking for you one day, dropping a crack team of lawyers on a rope through your skylight from their helicopter-‘o’-litigation. (For the same reason, attempt to re-edit ideas and words where you find them and they are not reconcatenated into your own interpretation of a concept, particularly clichés and platitudes. Literary affectation and reference is still sensible and can be done in an intelligent manner, though).
- find useful online tools and communities, generally not of the “intelligent people all do this” or “101 ways to write yourself into a Florida condominium” variety. Seek diversity and inspiration across all history, philosophy, science, arts and cultures.
- a peculiarly useful thesaurus tool that I use for word (and concept) development: Panlexicon.
- there is no one best way to compose or create written statements and ideas so follow your own path.
- be aware that if you seek to commercialise and capitalise upon your words and ideas through in-line advertising that there is always a danger that despite the cross-referencing and interlinked complexity of networked communications and their potential benefit for your eventual breadth and depth of audience reach, you may be perceived as being inauthentic or of having sold out. We all have to eat, so I am sure people will understand if you do choose this path.
“I think the trick is that you have to use words well enough so that these nickel-and-dimers who come around bitching about being objective or the advertisers don’t like it are rendered helpless by the fact that it’s good. That’s the way people have triumphed over conventional wisdom in journalism.”
– Hunter S. Thompson
- read, read, read – not necessarily online content but definitely written language of all persuasions and as many languages as you are fortunate enough to comprehend and ranging on a spectrum from newspaper comic-strips to philosophical works. Even read things that annoy you – being able to critically assess an argument for points of difference or logical failure is a useful life skill and in an online world has become a critical competency for personal sanity and informed intellectual awareness of communication trends. Don’t spend too much time on what annoys you – it can be creatively corrosive. “Book” is not necessarily a socially unacceptable four-letter word and coffee shops are actually great places to escape your digital life and between people-watching and social-space navigation try reading that book you have continuously been putting off until you have more time.
- be cautious when taking any advice at all (including this list of points).
- write for yourself. If people enjoy it, you are not having to continue some façade or pretence and can continue just doing what you do best – which is just simply being yourself.
Of course, this is just my interpretation of the context of (online) writing and my opinions are not likely to remain the same over time any more than the technologies and communications vectors we all share are likely to remain static and unchanging. Being held to an ideological, philosophical or creative position is a little like being nailed to the sapling you have just planted…