Technology Manager, Poet, History Maniac. Also, a prolific writer on varied topics
This article has taken me a long time to write.
And If I sound defensive, it is because people still call me names. I am attacked because I write articles only for selling and I do it consciously and it took me a long time to cultivate this mindset.
That said, writing is one of those few professions in which if you constantly produce popular articles, people may tend to think that you are doing something ‘unartistic’ or ‘shallow’. Good writers are supposed to be powerhouses of literature and arts and they write only for pure joy and passion. Good writers never vie to get attention, glory, honor, or for any other reason because they write to satisfy their creative outlets.
All this is bullshit.
This ‘high moral ground’ attitude creates a cult of failure, which leads failed authors to become oblivious of their poor sales or negative reviews and instead of getting better makes them tone-deaf to the market. Therefore, they just keep churning out stuff that does not sell, sinking thousands of hours (and dollars) into an expensive and frustrating writing hobby.
That is why a writer needs to be a hack. A hack is generally a shortcut or a faster way of doing things and writers are frowned at when they write something fast and provide the exact value that the reader expects from the writing. That is why, unlike the high moral ground writers who are inspired from within, I deliberately and intentionally write articles that readers enjoy so that I can easily make a living with my writing.
That said, anybody who writes to make money is not considered a real artist. They are labeled as ‘selling out’, the ‘lowest possible denominator’, or even accused as degrading the noble profession of writing. It is this mindset, writers need to change as explained brutally by Steven Pressfield in his book The War of Art.
“Nobody wants to read your shit. It is not that people are mean or cruel. They are just busy. Your potential readers are so much engrossed in their own lives that they haven’t got a second to spare for the fabulous work of art you have dished out.”
Steven Pressfield proposes the following solutions to make readers read your work.
- Reduce your message to its simplest, clearest, easiest-to-understand form.
- Make it fun, sexy, interesting, or informative.
As Pressfield summarises in his book.
“When you understand that nobody wants to read your shit, your mind becomes powerfully concentrated. You begin to understand that writing/reading is, above all, a transaction. The reader donates his time and attention, which are supremely valuable commodities. In return, you the writer must give him something worthy of his gift to you.”
In simple words, you need to be a hack and write in the easiest, fastest, and best way to get your message across to the reader. Avoid falling into the idealistic trap of selecting between ‘love for writing’ or ‘money from writing’. You can write with passion and yet earn a living from writing without feeling low in confidence or guilty about it.
And here is how you can do it.
Use the SEXY Method to structure your article
The SEXY method helps you to structure each of your paragraphs correctly while ensuring that the reader thoroughly understands the intent of your story.
Statement: The first sentence of your paragraph should be a single statement that tells the reader the gist of your story. It should set the context for the whole intention of your article in the mind of the reader.
Explanation: This is a full explanation of your point and should make up the bulk of your paragraph. This is a chance for you to push forward your point of view and why you believe in that.
eXamples: What evidence do you have to back up your point? You need solid examples to prove that what you have said is correct. Any point you make should be based on empirical data and on solid experiences backed either by self or other people who have experienced the same.
whY: Why is this important? There’s no point going to all of the trouble of making a point, explaining it, and backing it up with evidence if you’re not going to explain how it relates back to the original intent of your article and why it fortifies your argument. This is the reasoning that should shock the reader and bring him/her in terms of accepting your point of view.
Remember, everybody has a point of view in this world but what differentiates good writing from bad writing is a good structure and how it conveys your ideas to the reader in the easiest possible way.
Package your message into small chunks
One golden principle of good writing is packaging the message into small chunks. As the reader reads, his brain constantly interprets and processes the incoming words, and while doing that it loads the words into short-term memory, a buffer, and then discharges them when the meaning has been understood.
Having said that, human memory buffers are notoriously short and cannot hold more than 15 words at a time. This puts a limit on the reader’s understanding and by the time, a reader completes the reading of a really long sentence, his short time buffer is depleted and he loses track. That is why breaking into small, clear, and meaningful sentences are required to pass the message across.
If you aim to go easy on your readers’ memory buffers, follow these simple rules.
- Keep sentences short and enforce proper resolutions (period, colon, and semi-colon) at important points that allow readers to pause and digest the information.
- Cut fluff — Omit meaningless words that do not add any value to a sentence. Needless words consume human buffer
Remember, good writing is all about helping the reader to understand your point of view. If that is not happening, then you need to go back to the drawing board and start it over again until it happens.
Lastly, Keep Things Simple
Here is where you need to let go of something called 'writer’s ego'.
The writer’s ego is a state of mind when a writer thinks that his writing is 'too good' for the reader to understand. And it is the Achilles’ heel for any writer.
Remember: As writers, we need to be humble. It is always the writer’s fault for failing to express themselves clearly enough. It is never the reader’s fault for failing to understand anything.
And the truth is that almost any writing in any subject can be expressed in a way that reasonably intelligent people can understand. If that is not happening, it just means that the writer has not taken enough pain to present it succinctly.
Always boil down a sentence to its simplest form for maximum comprehension. And keep doing it until you are satisfied that it cannot be simplified any further.
For example, “He ran very quickly along the really long field.” can be, “He sprinted across the vast field.”
Another complicated sentence “The notion that a competitive workplace would result in a superior performance is at best dubious.”
Can be simplified as:
“A competitive workplace may not necessarily result in better performance”.
Remember great writing is like a joke. If you need to explain it, it is not a good joke. Write to communicate, not to impress.
As Michael Arndt has rightly said.
“Good writing is deceptive in that it hides its own artifice”
Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on February 01, 2021:
Deshsewak Kuldeep Bhagat from A TO Z Exim Shopping Mart on February 01, 2021:
Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on February 01, 2021:
Vanita Thakkar on February 01, 2021:
Nice article with good tips. Thanks for sharing.
John Hansen from Queensland Australia on February 01, 2021:
Interesting article. You make some good points.