I guess I’m in a metaphysical mood today. Thinking about writing for the internet, how it’s different, and finding your own style.
So, let’s set the scene…
Seth Godin, Lao-Tzu and I walk into Hemingway’s Bar & Grill. Godin says, “I’ll have a Purple Cow.” I say, in my best Homer Simpson salutation, “Beer me.” Lao-Tzu says, “Ommmmm.”
That’s me channeling Seth Godin, echoing Lao-Tzu.
Except I’m not a bald guy and I don’t wear saffron like either of these wise men.
Writing for the internet is a challenge
That said, this is a post about writing short. Writing tight. Writing meaningfully and writing with purpose.
Using action words not passive. Sometimes with pictures instead of a thousand words. Occasionally, mixed in with the sound of one hand clapping.
Most important, getting to the point in as few words as possible. That’s what works best on the internet.
Unless it doesn’t and you’ve got great big stories to tell. Then you have all the freedom in the world to use as many words as you want. But if you do write long, they’d better be the best damn words in the world!
Because you have about six seconds to grab your reader by the throat, turn them upside down, and shake all their coins out onto the pavement to get their attention.
Great writers talk about writing
As Mark Twain famously said:
“ The most interesting information comes from children, for they tell all they know and then stop.”
He also wrote:
“The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.”
Seth and Lao-Tzu share insight
But let’s come back to my drinking buddies and their thoughts on writing.
Seth Godin tells us:
“If you can’t state your position in eight words, you don’t have a position.”
So true, whether you’re blogging, writing web content or developing your marketing positioning or USP.
Lao-Tzu would remind us that “He who talks more is sooner exhausted.”
He also says:
“Countless words count less than the silent balance between yin and yang.”
Ah, the importance of the pause.
Writing for the internet is like that. Less is so often more. Unless it’s not enough to tell your story! Then you need hundreds or even thousands of wonderful words, carefully crafted, and shared in just the right amount.
ee cummings on creativity
That master of ideas and short words e.e. cummings wrote:
“Your head is a living forest full of songbirds.”
I like his reminder to be creative or you’ll never stand out from the noisy traffic jam on the internet.
Maybe the most important thing you can do in your short writing is to create nuance. A suggestion of an idea, a glance in the right direction that allows your readers to fill things in by themselves. Because, let’s face it Screaming and yelling just doesn’t work anymore!
And if you’re stuck, metaphorically take a couple of famous writers or philosophers out for a drink. You never know what may come up in conversation.
Author: Jeff Domansky
Visuals: Seth Godin, GraphicStock
This article was also published on Medium.