Kill Your Darlings, Not Your Blog

In 2008, I started utter (de)construction, a blog that covered major issues facing global brands, politics, and society. It was pretty cool, but as I continued to publish, I became was afraid of my strong editorial voice, which is naturally bold and provocative.

At the time, I was a Communications Associate at a religious institution, as well as a freelancer who was looking for new clients, and working to satisfy current ones. Although my blog was not targeting these populations, I kept my more conservative contacts in mind as I developed my personal brand. This made me increasingly uncomfortable putting my content out there as a blogger.

I worried my delivery was inappropriate for some readers. An example of this is when I entitled a post about former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s campaign-financed clothing makeover “Barely Legal Campaign Expenditures,” I thought it was edgy and pretty funny but worried that its reference to the porn industry went a little too far. Despite my concerns, I ultimately published the post but it never felt quite right. Eventually, I ended the blog. We’ll get back to that later.

The two-step writing process

After reviewing the readings for #CMGRclass, I found myself revisiting this personal experience and realize that there is a simple, two-step process for writing and editing content for any channel (blog, website, video script, etc).

Image via Flickr

Step 1 (Write): Let loose

The Ultimate Guide to Blogging by the Content Marketing Institute provides three key points to consider while blogging. One tip states, “Loosen up: Authenticity trumps perfection when connecting with readers.” This is true for the writing stage. Do not edit while you write. You need to write a first draft from start-to-finish (making notes along the way to cite that article or fact check some detail, rather than derailing your initial draft). Type whatever comes to mind, even if it sounds stupid. Especially when it sounds stupid. Step 2 will take care of the rest.

Step 2 (Edit): Kill your darlings

Recently, I heard that to write for any channel, including, but not limited to, blogs, you must kill all your darlings—a phrase first turned by famed writer, William Faulkner. It is often the work to which we are extremely attached that most needs editing. This points to a tension that exists between writer and editor, which, for bloggers who wear both hats, refers to the same person.

From 2008 to today

When I first launched utter (de)construction. I covered issues that not every 20-something could handle. I was on to something.

Looking back, I realize that when I felt conflicted I killed my blog when I should have simply killed my darlings.

Thinking back to that racy title in 2008 that never quite sat right, I now realize that those four words “Barely Legal Campaign Expenditures” embodied one of my darlings. I just love the phrase, even today, but now I am prepared to lead that and others to slaughter. Lesson learned.

Going beyond the two-step process

There are many guidelines that make for a great blog post. These are some from #CMGRclass:

Blogging: 34 Things you’re Doing Wrong

How to Write Great Blog Content

How to Find and Keep Great Writers for Your Blog

How to Create an Editorial Calendar That Will Grow With Your Audience

Five Benefits of an Editorial Calendar

Do you have a single tip that helped you unlock the words stuck in your head or to mercilessly edit your own work? Please be sure to include them in the comments below.

 

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