Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Seth Godin Suggests: Write Like a Blogger

This morning, I spoke to a journalism class at Cleveland State University, and was met with more questions--and great questions--than at any other time I've talked about writing, anywhere, ever. My friend (and their teacher) Cliff Anthony is obviously doing something right (two years ago, I wrote about him a little). These students were an invigorating reminder of what it's all about. This afternoon, the marketing guru and writer Seth Godin provided me with another important reminder of what it's all about. Below is his entire entry. His most important point, I think: "Waiting for perfect is a lousy strategy." Remember, you can get closer to perfection with rounds of rewriting and revising. But nobody begins there, or even close to there. You have to work at it.

You can improve your writing (your business writing, your ad writing, your thank you notes and your essays) if you start thinking like a blogger:

Use headlines. I use them all the time now. Not just boring ones that announce your purpose (like the one on this post) but interesting or puzzling or engaging headlines. Headlines are perfect for engaging busy readers.

Realize that people have choices. With 80 million other blogs to choose from, I know you could leave at any moment (see, there goes someone now). So that makes blog writing shorter and faster and more exciting.

Drip, drip, drip. Bloggers don't have to say everything at once. We can add a new idea every day, piling on a thesis over time.

It's okay if you leave. Bloggers aren't afraid to include links or distractions in their writing, because we know you'll come back if what we had to say was interesting.

Interactivity is a great shortcut. Your readers care about someone's opinion even more than yours... their own. So reading your email or your comments or your trackbacks (your choice) makes it easy to stay relevant.

Gimmicks aren't as useful as insight. If you're going to blog successfully for months or years, sooner or later you need to actually say something. Same goes for your writing.

Don't be afraid of lists. People like lists.

Show up. Not writing is not a useful way of expressing your ideas. Waiting for perfect is a lousy strategy.

Say it. Don't hide, don't embellish.

What would happen if every single high school student had to have a blog? Or every employee in your company? Or every one of your customers?


At 10:50 AM, Blogger Michelle O'Neil said...

Dear John,

Thank you for posting this informative list. I so enjoy Working With Words.



Okay...now I gotta go work on my essays.

At 10:53 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

The thanks should really be directed to Seth Godin, who wrote this. But thanks as always for visiting, Michelle.

At 11:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was one of the students in Cliff's class. Thank you again for all the useful information about writing as a career. The advice and websites you provided will help me in my current internship.

Thank you,
Tracy Marks

At 11:14 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Tracy, how great of you to stop by and leave a comment. As I mentioned, I was blown away by all the questions and participation. Your classmates were full of energy and smarts, and I enjoyed being there. Good luck on the internship.

At 11:21 AM, Blogger Art Durkee said...

Interesting. I've read a lot of what Seth Godin has produced in the past ten years or so. A lot of it is very informative and useful.

There are some difficulties, though. Underneath them all is the basic assumptions about life that an extravert like Godin makes, that are difficult for introverts like me to put into play. Meeting that many people in one day, for me, is so totally exhausting, it can take another full day to recover. My experience has been that extraverts never really understand the needs of introverts.

This is why I would also recommend Elaine Aron's book "The Highly Sensitive Person." It goes a long way towards helping one figure out one's own coping style.

But that's all digression.

Point by point, I think Godin's list of advice is a good one. It applies very much to essay writing, possibly including creative nonfiction.

It doesn't apply at all, I think, however, to poetry. Except this line, which is really so important most poets should write it on their bathroom mirror:

Say it. Don't hide, don't embellish.

Very wise.

At 11:33 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Art, that's a GREAT point about introverts and extroverts. It should have been obvious, but wasn't, at least not to me. Which is why I always love it when you add your perspective.

At 11:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thank you for taking the time to come speak to my class. I found your personal experiences and insight on the writing world very helpful. It’s always great when a person with experience comes in to share inside information. It was very beneficial.

Thank You,

At 1:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know I am a little late, but I wanted to say "THANK YOU" for taking time out of your day to share some of your brilliant insight into blogging and marketing writing. I truly appreciate it, and I am sure the rest pf my peers would agree.

Your style of writing is humours, yet informative.

Thanks again,
Alysia Rogers

At 10:36 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving your comment, Alysia. Around here, it's never too late to weigh into the conversation. We especially like first-time commenters such as you. Here's hoping you'll stop back often.


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