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Falling in Love with Writing Again

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In its purest form, writing offers artistic value to our world, inspiring people, making them think, debating ideas, and challenging norms, even in marketing. The creative side of the profession, the part that speaks to the soul, demands better than a top five list or a mechanical landing page.

A blog post should contribute a small nugget to a professional’s life. An essay should revolve around an idea and debate its merits, pros and cons and leave the reader spinning with their own interpretations. A book should leave a reader enchanted with dream and vision.

And by books, I’m not talking the trade books many of us bloggers tout as our professional mantras, rather books of grander scale and intent. For example, a novel that offers societal commentary. Or even a great history or nonfiction accounting of some facet of life or place.

Writers achieve full potential when they touch others, catalyzing minds with ideas, conviction and passion. That requires effort and thought on the part of the crafts(wo)men.

I want to be read for a good read. That’s what I tell myself these days.

What an odd thing to say on a blog, especially a marketing blog (at least to some). Yet, writing for the sake of writing is my primary motivator.

Are there secondary motivations like developing leads, projects outside the scope of marketing, and simply trying to make a difference? Yes. Let’s not talk tongue in cheek. But they don’t drive overarching decisions on editorial content and format. For example, several common blogging practices are ignored to avoid tainting value.

Falling in Love with My Craft, Again

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You may have noticed a change here, recently. Almost every week you get a longer post.

They’re not blog posts in my mind, rather essays, usually 1000 words or more debating the merits of something, sometimes they are work related like futurism or digital identity. Other times the topics are deeply personal like considerations of beauty or this post, an author’s view of writing in a social media world revolving around attention.

These essays tend to be a bit less popular than the regular short pithy blog post. Understandably so, they represent a stylistic shift, and offer something that doesn’t equate well on a mobile phone (25% of you come here on tablets or smartphones).

Henry Matisse said creativity takes courage. It does, it would be much easier to mail it in and stay the course, kicking out professionally crafted marketing posts filled with lists and pithy witticisms about branding and lead generation. That path offers safety.

Instead, to fuel creativity I turned towards the less popular, a necessary move to resolve the weariness of day-in day-out blogging.

Essay writing intrigues me creatively. The act of wordsmithing essays challenges my mind, grappling with thought and imagery to deliver a deeper comprehension on a topic.

Certainly essay writing demands more from a scribe than a blog post. A blog takes an hour, but essays take three to four to write, not including the thinking that precedes drafting.

Stylistically, a few bloggy considerations continue such as links out to a referring source or a similar piece; the photos; and subheads, effectively dividing the essay into four or five blog posts so readers can leave at will. But they are considered in whole.

Meatier, deeper, more enjoyable from the writer’s perspective, and yes, less popular.

The Long March of Blogging

Image by 33 East

Image by 33 East

After seven years of blogging, thousands of blog posts, most of them professional in nature, mixing it up became a question of passion. I began to burn-out on blogging again.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy the form, I do, and in spite of certain April Fool’s Day jokes and the periodic kvetch, I intend to continue offering standard blogs here.

Yet, as a writer — and I do consider myself a writer first — the form has limitations. To be successful, it demands a consistent flow of ideas and output. That leaves little time for other types of writing. Working on books, short stories and the like while blogging [not to mention the rigors of a normal work and parenting life] is intense, and extremely draining.

The limitations supersede the time and energy investment. The form lends itself to relatively short and incomplete thoughts. Really, most blogs are observations or threads of larger topical conversations occurring on that page. Writing thousands of blogs becomes monotonous after a while.

That’s not to demean the form, far from it. Delivering a consistently decent blog takes work, and having blogged for a long time, I’m proud of the effort and the result.

But it’s not enough, and I don’t have a lot of time at my disposal anymore. To not feed the creative spirit inside denies the very essence of being a writer. So, periodic essays feed the beast… For now.

Where Is This Going?

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Instinctively, essays will deliver an exploration of deeper and more challenging threads, the delivery of more well rounded and challenging pieces. Perhaps even a different conversation.

Some writers would debate that great writing lies in expository style, perfect in execution, crisp in thought. Me, I think great writing challenges the reader, it provokes them, positively or negatively.

When I consider the stylistically perfect Turgenev versus Dostoyevsky, a brooding existentialist disguised as a novelist, I’m always drawn to the latter. Turgenev perfected the craft, but Dostoyevsky moved a generation of writers and philosophers. That’s the role model I prefer.

Gore Vidal said, “Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.”

Well, I think I’m finally getting there.

So let’s do it. Writing should take the reader someplace. Lift them up, challenge them, push them to another place.

Make readers think about what can be. Captivate. That’s what a real author does.

That’s what I want to offer: Dreams, new directions, vision.

When I think about what words can achieve, I know great leaps, fantastic journeys, and fulfilled promises are ahead.

I’ve only begin to touch what can be accomplished with a keyboard. And I’m hungry to deliver, and maybe, just maybe take someone to that next level.

What do you want from a great read?

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  • http://www.thejackb.com/ The JackB

    I have reached a place where most of the time I just want to write without concern or regard for whether most post has the best headline, is optimized for SEO and is a good length for readers.

    When i am reading I want substance and meat to chew on. It doesn’t always have to be “possible” either.

    Take me on a journey and show me something.

    • geofflivingston

      Your writing has encouraged me in some ways to become bolder, and write with a free hand. Thank you, Jack.

      • http://www.margieclayman.com Marjorie Clayman

        I was looking for a “like” button for this comment. Mein gadt, I have to write the word “Amen”? You both are great writers :)

        • http://twitter.com/NancyCawleyJean Nancy Cawley Jean

          Amen!

          • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

            Double amen :)

  • http://www.margieclayman.com Marjorie Clayman

    I’m really enjoying the new style. You’re inspiring me to think out of the box too, but with our agency posts I need to write to the audience because…that’s kind of the point. Elsewhere though, I can play :)

    • http://twitter.com/geoffliving Geoff Livingston

      Thank you, and I totally understand. Got to pay the bills, and I, too, have not completely abandoned my marketing posts.

  • http://twitter.com/NancyCawleyJean Nancy Cawley Jean

    What a FABULOUS piece, Geoff. This beautiful essay is a great motivator for me, and I’m sure many others, who still love the art of writing. I understand exactly what you’re saying. I have always considered writing to be one of my strong suits, but it always took a back seat to the day job and then it became a matter of finding my own voice after many years of ghost writing. Thanks for the inspiration to pursue this beautiful art in more depth.

    • http://twitter.com/geoffliving Geoff Livingston

      I can’t wait to see what you produce! I am sure it will be awesome…

  • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

    Are you living in my head? Cheers! Kaarina

    • http://twitter.com/geoffliving Geoff Livingston

      I am the gremlin inside of there, yes.

  • http://www.writerightwords.com/ Erin Feldman

    You have no idea how happy this post makes me. Well, maybe you do. I’m fairly transparent when it comes to my views of writing.

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

      I’m happy-dancing with you :)

    • http://twitter.com/geoffliving Geoff Livingston

      If you are happy, I am happy! Ready to run this weekend?

      • http://www.writerightwords.com/ Erin Feldman

        It’s actually next weekend. For some reason, though, I’ve had it in my head that it was the 13th, too. Go figure.

        I really do like that you’re exploring the essay form.

        • geofflivingston

          That’s great, Erin. Enjoy, a Tough Mudder is quite an accomplishment. Thank you, too!

  • http://www.WaxingUnLyrical.com/ Shonali Burke

    The REALLY good reads I read (sic) are the ones that stay with me for several days, months, perhaps years (and that last one is really tough)… and those are the ones where length, formatting, etc., don’t really matter (I mean, they might, but the content is so great that it transcends everything else). They’re easy to understand yet thought-provoking.

    So that’s what I love and consider a good read… and a lot of the stuff from “thought leaders” might be really good content, but it is so confusing (and according to my dog, I’m a fairly smart person), that it loses me before I’m even halfway done.

    We don’t always have the luxury to write like that, though… but more and more, that’s how I want to write. Yes, sometimes I need to do the “how to” kinds of posts, but I want to tell stories, and leave people thinking.

    • http://twitter.com/geoffliving Geoff Livingston

      If you can’t understand it, then it probably suffers the sniff test.

      For me, I think, I pray I can evolve my readership with the style. We will see, like you I don’t want to cut off my nose to spite my face. On the story front, this is a Seth Godin book, no? All Marketers Are Liars!

  • http://twitter.com/bowden2bowden Randy Bowden

    Always the rivers flow, go forth and conquer Geoff!

    • http://twitter.com/geoffliving Geoff Livingston

      Thank you, sir. Hope you are well!

  • http://twitter.com/Spafloating Pamela Morse

    I hope it leads to more white space and nature photography..go, be artful..poetic..like air..it is good, and maybe you have an audience waiting to find this more artful stuff..shift, don’t burn out.

    • http://twitter.com/geoffliving Geoff Livingston

      Whatever will happen will be evolutionary. Certainly, an audience in tune with less marketing centric content would be awseome! Hope you are doing well.

  • http://www.jasonkonopinski.com/ Jason Konopinski

    I have this same struggle with my writing fairly frequently, but a few kind words over the weekend from @Shonali:disqus have forced me to refocus and keep true to *my* voice and *my* ideas. Maturing as a writer and a thinker isn’t always easy, but it’s always worth the stripes.

    • geofflivingston

      It’s all we have to offer, Jason. Plus you are busy now, so there’s less time for BS. Follow your muse!

      • http://www.jasonkonopinski.com/ Jason Konopinski

        It’s all we have and all that we can do, yes. Doing what I do best. :)

  • http://accomplishedyounglady.com BethDunn

    Totally with you. I’ve fallen in love with the essay over the last year or so, too. It means I’ve been posting less often, but I’m okay with that. Looking forward to seeing where it takes both of us. :-)

    • geofflivingston

      What can you do, right? Follow your heart. I’ll check out some of your stuff!

  • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

    If it’s any consolation IIIIIIIII like the long essay thinky-think posts! Whenever I come across a short post or a rehashed list, I leave immediately. Especially if it’s a short list. Challenge me, I’m ready!

    • geofflivingston

      LOL, funny to see all of the bloggers down on the lists. When we have blog meetings at Vocus, we call them the Velveeta of the blogosphere. I hope you are doing well, my friend! Thanks for your support.

      • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

        Velveeta… that’s awesome. I’ll have to tack that one to my wall! I’m keeping busy, mostly out of trouble unless it’s too fun to pass up… hope you are too!

  • http://twitter.com/ideaguypcam Tom Willis

    I am really, really glad you posted this, Geoff. Being a newbie to the blogging thing, I’m still kind of in voyeur mode, seeing how others do it & reading how it fits into business models and all. Thing is, I am already pretty well turned off to the whole formulaic 5 ways to errr 3 strategies to errr whatever, bullet point, short attention span hell of it all. .I mean I get it, but I don;’t want to do it. Until very recently, my main respite was Seth Godin’s blog, but he’s…well Seth Godin! I have really enjoyed reading your posts. They make my brain work. No easy task – so I really appreciate that. This one gives me a sense of freedom. I’m gonna write what I want to write the way I want to write it when I want to write it. So from this rookie amateur blog voyeur to you, a true professional – thank you very much.

    • geofflivingston

      What’s been done is done, so I like how you are thinking critically from a style perspective. Being you will differentiate you, I hope. Being them or standard fodder won’t, so I think you’re on the right path!

  • http://brianvickery.com/ Brian Vickery

    Another introspective post as you appreciate the transformation process you are going through. I am enjoying how you are both “in the moment” with this transformation as well as showing excitement for where the path leads you.

    I remain curious what you will accomplish while taking this path, so that is the mark of a good writer…you have me looking forward to the next chapter.

    • geofflivingston

      You want have to wait long, it’s coming tomorrow. Dark one . Thank you so much for your support, Brian. It means a lot.

  • http://www.3hatscommunications.com/blog/ Davina K. Brewer

    Was commenting over at Gini’s the other day, on the differences between writing (storytelling, narrative) well and blogging (SEO, links) well. Like @TheJackB:disqus I’m a little tired of the blogging mechanics and would rather just write. But as a business owner, it’s not that simple – the tech hoodoo of blogging is part of it, something I have to make work within my style of writing.

    What I like from a good read – you got it – it captivates. Long or short, there’s a story there w/ beginning, middle and an end that I want to get to. Best for you as your blog evolves into more of what you want; I know it’s something aiming for myself. FWIW.

  • http://twitter.com/ExtremelyAvg Brian D. Meeks

    I enjoy the essay much more than the short post. I don’t know if it is better, but that is where my tastes lie. This is why I so dislike most, not all, but most podcasts or videos on blogs. I want to read the words.

    If a writer can combine seven to twelve words in a way that makes me stop dead in my tracks and think, then they have me. I’m reading “Wool”, the oft discussed Hugh Howey book, and in it, there was a brilliant ending to a chapter that forced me to stop reading.

    It wasn’t that I didn’t want to know what happened next, it was that the moment was so delicious that to push past and continue into the story on would be an unforgivable loss of the moment.

    But great as it is to read such a passage, to write one is even better. It doesn’t have to be something that is, necessarily, appreciated by all the readers. It can be a joke between you and a character or a delightful cadence, but it is something that makes the writer stop and say, “Hey, that’s good writing!” When it happens, it is the best rush I know.

    I think the idea for more essays will serve you well in the long run. At least, I’ll enjoy them.

  • Molly Fulton

    I was at a small bloggers conference yesterday, and as always, the discussion of post length, frequency, SEO, etc was going on. Many different types of bloggers were there with different objectives, but I kept coming back to craft. I think if more of us were willing like you to dare to take more time ( and word count) to craft, maybe we could turn the tide of the 300 word, bullet list attention span. Thanks for a lovely, timely post.

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