Even if you don’t consider yourself a true creative, but “just” a content creator or Web writer, you can take your writing to the next level by thinking like an artist.
So today I want to share two lessons I typically share with budding writers: how you can develop two differentiating qualities that set you apart and make your content sparkle.
First, the foundation
It’s unfair, I know, but creatives have their own set of rules. They often get away with being a little flaky and unreliable, mostly because we love what they do.
But that flakiness can often work against them. They experience what Steven Pressfield calls “resistance,” which keeps them from finishing or even starting important projects.
Here’s the problem with that: You aren’t really an artist if you don’t release your work to the world.
True artists make things happen. Their visions become reality. That means they have to learn their craft to the point that it’s natural. Because ultimately, they need to forget about the details of grammar and word order so they can focus on their message.
As a writer, you have to constantly hone your ability to put words and sentences together to create logical flow—without drawing attention to your words.
And you have to refine your ability to write quickly, with passion, not fussing over every jot and tittle. (Write now; edit later.)
Yes, you want your creation to be good. But it’s better to share it with the world slightly imperfect than to wait until (perhaps never) it’s finally “good enough.”
After all, when it comes to creativity, what is “good enough”? Does anyone really know?
Quality #1: It has to mean something
The thing that differentiates artists from other professionals is that artists inject their work with a “little something extra.”
I’m not sure I knew how to verbalize this until my daughter was in art school. She would turn in a photorealistic painting, technically perfect, and the profs would want to know, “What does it mean?” or “What are you trying to say?”
I quickly realized that this was the thing that made my journey so challenging. As a budding artist, I spent all my energy perfecting my craft, when I should have been refining my message.
That’s something you want to think through too. Because it’s a critical part of the creative process. You have to have a core message, something you want to say to the world.
All that technical ability isn’t worth anything unless it expresses an idea. Call it branding if you like, but it’s the underlying message that supports everything else you say.
Quality #2: It has to be unique
While I admire Hemmingway, Austin and Shakespeare, I don’t want to write like them. I don’t even want to write like Demian Farnsworth, though I adore his style.
Artists don’t copy. They have their own voice and style and peculiar way of expressing themselves.
Who do you write like? Like you, of course. And yes, it can take a while to refine your voice, but unless you’re true to your craft, cranking out articles and Web pages, and putting them out there for the world to judge enjoy, you’ll never find your unique way of expressing yourself.
Remember, your unique voice is the very thing that makes you great. Case in point: It’s easy to recognize a Shakespearian quote because we’re all familiar with his unique style.
How do you find your message/uniqueness?
Well, certainly not by putting off the work of creating. A core message or unique voice has never magically appeared to anyone.
You’ve probably heard that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to be good at anything. I think there’s some truth to that.
So my first suggestion is to start.
Don’t put off starting a project because you don’t know what you’re doing yet. You’ll figure out what you’re doing after you see it.
As Mark Twain once said, “The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is you really want to say.”
A few other suggestions:
Look at your passions. What are the issues that make you hot under the collar or get you talking nonstop? Somewhere, buried inside, you’ll find your core message.
Look at the projects that have given you the most satisfaction. What do you like about them? What do they say to you? Can you phrase that as a core message?
Honestly, objectively compare your work to other people’s in your niche (the pros and the up-and-comers). What do you do that’s different? Don’t judge it or assume it’s bad. It might be the thing that adds sparkle to your work.
And finally, what comes easily to you? You’re probably inclined to discount it as something that isn’t valuable because it’s so easy. But before you discount it, evaluate whether other people are able to do it.
If not, see if you can develop it into a differentiator. Build on it. Own it as your own personal style. Then…
Let your inner artist shine
Even if writing is a job and a drudge and not an artistic endeavor, you need to find your core message and unique voice.
They’ll make your blog posts more interesting. They strengthen your brand. And ultimately, they’ll make your writing worth reading.
So think like an artist. Look for the “thing” that sets you apart, and then share it below. I’d love to hear what it is.
Image credit: HaPe_Gera