What Ever Happened to Writing from the Heart?

I recently did a big purge from my Google Reader. I usually do this once every few months. Not only do I remove subscriptions blogs that no longer seem to be active, I also use the purge as a chance to get rid of blogs that just aren’t producing great content anymore.

There are only so many “Top 5 Tips” I can take. Only so many “Blogging/TV/Newspapers/Social Media is Dead” linkbait posts can cross my stream before I hit the snooze button. But sadly, every time I go through a big RSS purge, there are a lot of blogs I’m eliminating for just those reasons.

More and more, content creators are so caught up in driving traffic, increasing their views, and improving their (gasp) influence, that I think many have lost sight of why they really even started blogging in the first place.

I suppose I could be considered late to the game when it comes to blogging (in comparison to some of the true “old timers” of the online journaling era). I had a false start on this blog in 2006, but then really got into it in early 2007. Like everyone else, I’ve had my share of dry spells. I’ve had times when I’ve gone weeks without a post. I’ve focused on various topics at length, social media, education, video, and so on, and become better known in those spaces; but I’ve never lost sight of one thing – why I do this in the first place.

Sure, I know that blogging often on certain topics can improve my search engine ranking. I know that getting links on others’ blogs helps that too. I respect the fact that what I have done here has opened up new doors and new opportunities for me and my business. These things are all wonderful side effects of blogging. But they are most certainly not my raison d’รชtre.

I have other reasons for being here. First and foremost, it’s because I love to write. I love to spend time in the part of my brain that creates and shapes ideas. I use this space as an outlet for my thoughts, a way to get them straight. And yes, sometimes it’s even therapeutic. The fact that not only can I share what I think, know, and feel here is terrific, but what’s really cool is that people actually read it. And leave comments. I write because I enjoy it, and I keep writing because other people seem to enjoy it too. It’s win-win.

I believe that the people who are most successful with their blogs are the people that create them out of a love for something – a hobby, a profession, or some aspect of their personal life. Some do it for the sheer joy of writing and creation, and that’s great too.

But if you enter the world of blogging just so that you can be read, be popular, or be #1 on Google, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.

Businesses are feeling pressure to start blogging, and I believe that in many cases, blogging can be extremely beneficial to businesses of all sizes and industries. But just because you’re writing with a business focus does not mean you can’t still write from the heart. It doesn’t mean you can’t post things just for the sheer joy of it, to work through ideas, or even as self-therapy. You could write a blog about the joys of doing theoretical physics, and if you’re writing passionately and honestly, if you can make me CARE about theoretical physics, then I’ll be way more inclined to subscribe to it than a blog about video production that simply posts boring top 5 lists of fancy video effects I can use in my next YouTube video.

Forget about SEO. Forget about backlinks and getting readers and building influence. Make those things come second. Write down a list of the things that get you fired up about your hobby, or your work, or your life. Think about those things, and let those crazy good, excited feelings well up inside you. Then, and only then, start writing.

Want to create great content? Then consistently write from the heart. It might be what makes the difference between whether your blog succeeds or not. It will sure as heck make me stay subscribed.

Category:blogging, writing
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  • January 3, 2011 at 7:42 am

    i have been known to do both, though I have never figured out how to play nicely with SEO. But i realized last month, in the middle of my EOY goal setting, that my “job” is not to write, it’s to help people understand. Sometimes that will be in writing. But the key is the helping people understand. If I write for the sake of writing, I can lose heart. If I keep “looking” at the people I’m talking to, that can sustain heart, with heart used in the way you are using it here.

    okay. done. Can I get you some coffee?

    • January 3, 2011 at 8:03 am

      I honestly believe that there’s a good chunk of SEO that is a happy accident. It’s not an exact science, yet the so-called “experts” lead you to believe that there’s some kind of magic to it.

      All that aside, I think you’re right. If you’re writing for others, to be helpful, to help others understand, then I think the “heart” part just comes naturally.

      And sure, I’ll take a coffee. Thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • January 3, 2011 at 8:02 am

    I don’t even know what it means to write with SEO in mind. I mean, I do literally, but when I see what gets posted online SEO seems to mean dull and repetitive and a bit vacuous. I don’t really know how you can write about something you care about without keywords entering into it. So why jump through hoops trying to “write for SEO?”

    But I seem to be cranky these days. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • January 3, 2011 at 8:04 am

      It’s the ol’ cart-before-the-horse scenario, I think.

      Nothing wrong with a little crank. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • January 3, 2011 at 8:10 am
    Geoff Livingston

    The problem with writing — any kind of writing — is that if lacks conviction and personal experience, it usually lacks substance. It rings hallow, and readers move on. A good reminder to write from the soul.

    Personally, I have blog/writing topics pop in my head, and I keep a running list. These often come to me at the gym, walking the dog, etc. I then write the one that speaks to my heart most at the moment.

    • January 3, 2011 at 8:13 am

      The ideas are always there, we just have to be open to them. It’s a fact!

  • January 3, 2011 at 8:26 am

    Excellent points Susan. If someone doesn’t have a passion for what they do, it really shows. Writing is a form of communication that for all the buzz words out there today, simply opens up the author’s heart to the audience. You cannot, nor should any of us, fake that.

    • January 4, 2011 at 9:09 am

      For sure, Kim. If it’s coming out of my brain, it had better be for real.

  • January 3, 2011 at 8:33 am

    Sometimes it’s hard to write from the heart. You don’t want to hurt people’s feelings, alienate yourself or give up some little piece of privacy. It can be a lot easier to write something that seems interesting or useful without putting too much of yourself out there.

    Humor’s another way to avoid putting too much of yourself into it. It’s a brilliant defense mechanism because it evokes emotion without going too deep.

    But ultimately I have to agree with you and Geoff. Writing from the heart provides the secret sauce and makes something memorable.

  • January 3, 2011 at 11:30 am

    Wow…. took the thought right out of my head. I saw a post on twitter the other day that was talking about blog goals for the new year and what success for 2011 looked like. Everyone was discussing how many posts they were going to write and basically coming from the numbers. My response? Success is when I have shared from the heart and given a glimmer of insight that may help someone have a better day, year, life.

    KUDOS to you for taking the lead on this and helping us all remember that this wonderful communication medium gives us so much more than just how many hits or subscribers we have.

    Thanks so much SUZE!

  • January 3, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    Very much ‘from the heart’ Suze, thanks for posting.

    I’m happy to say I write because I have an inner desire to teach and help others through strong communication. Sure, other benefits accompany this action, but when it comes down to it, my first priority has always been to satiate my need to share, teach, and inspire.

    I don’t write about something unless I’ve lived it. You mention unsubscribing from blogs– I do this when the author ‘teaches’ me about stuff he or she has never done nor lived through. C’mon, give me a break.

    When I see such articles, I realize their lack of genuineness, and it turns me right off.

    Good stuff Suze, keep ’em coming from the heart. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • January 3, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    I have always been a “from-the-heart” writer and I always will be. I like building community and I know that when I write that way, I get responses. Though I throw in a step-by-step or tips article now and then when I see too many people struggling with something, I generally enjoy writing my thoughts more.

    I have been drawn here throughout the time you have been writing because of the way you write. Keep on!

  • January 3, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    I cannot commit to posting a blog post unless I really “feel” it. I’m trying to make that come across in my writing.

    I don’t need SEO but I dabble with it for fun and education, but who cares about SEO if visitors can’t stand reading what you’ve written once you get them there.

    • January 4, 2011 at 9:10 am

      Excellent point, Chel! Many a boring article has made it to the top of the Google page.

  • January 3, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    I love this post. I started blogging because I needed 1 post. 1 post only and never thought I’d stick with it. I stuck with it but thought no-one would ever read my stuff. Now it amazes me that people do read my posts. I suck at SEO, I admit it. I’m learning. But the reason why I keep my blog going is not because I have amazing readers and people like to read my brainy outbursts. It’s because I love to write. If I want to do a 5 tips post I will. If I want to vent, I vent. And if I want to share something about my life I do that too. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for this. Loved it. Off to share now!

    • January 4, 2011 at 9:11 am

      Thanks Antonia, I look forward to digging into your blog too!

  • […] couldn’t write a post about writing better blog content without also writing a post about comments. One of the things I love most about blogging is the […]

  • January 4, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    This post just made my day. As a budding writer, and in light of the current state of blogging, it’s always refreshing knowing that people still do it for the right reasons and encourage others to do the same. Thank you for this ray of light.

  • January 4, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    Hi Suze,

    Glad I made it in to read this. Great position you take—its definitely the high road. I wonder if its a road that does truly need to be defended. All the tricks, the jet-streaming of SEO-ready headlines and bot-meal blog posts with twitter auto-feeding and strategic hashtags—just tricks to stab the market. perhaps necessary.

    Right after college, I was an editor at a big publishing house for textbooks. The books were top quality—but NONE of the book projects made it to production until after it was clear a market existed. I’m offering this point because it was a wild revelation to my mind—even in publishing, whether or not sweet moolah is on the other side determines what gets made.

    writing from the heart should be what gets you up in the morning. i agree. but, it may just be a dirty truth that doing so isn’t good enough for the marketplace.

    Have you ever read “Arts of the Contact Zone” by Mary Louise Pratt? Give it a look—details a huge manuscript discovered hundreds of years after it was written, from a leader of the Incan Empire to the King of Spain—it was 1200 pages long and very heartfelt. It never made it to the king. There was no “contact zone” established through which the dialogue could be established.

    Well anyway, I think the point you are making here should be like a ‘nerf bat’ all us bloggers use to bop ourselves in the head with to make sure we put more oomph into the copy—but, that copy will be just as worthless as old Incan guy’s treatise if the writer doesn’t also pull out the stops for driving traffic.

  • January 4, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    Sometimes I think it comes down to some bloggers wanting to be all things to all people. Of course, that is an impossibility — some folks will love it and others will hate it no matter what is written. How much better to focus on the audience that is attracted to that particular writing style so it remains more authentic!

  • January 5, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    Ha ha! I was just talking about this with my boss yesterday. Sure we can sit here and crank out content that no one will read and we might be able to help the client rank for one keyword, but we aren’t adding anything of value to anyone. Instead lets focus on helping get answers to people with well thought out posts and then we start ranking for terms we hadn’t thought of.

    For me the SEO part comes into researching an industry for terms specific to them. I also like Google Keyword Tool to help me find terms that user are searching for as opposed to my industries tech speak. When it comes to writing I have to write from my heart otherwise its too hard and unreadable.

    anyway great stuff, keep it up!

  • January 5, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    Thank you for saying this! If I read one more ‘Top 10’ or ‘5 Top Things’ and so on my head will explode! Now with the start of the new year all there is is predictions and the ‘Best of’!

    Thank you for reminding everyone why we write!

  • […] couldnโ€™t write a post about writing better blog content without also writing a post about comments. One of the things I love most about blogging is the […]



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