Writing Rules of the Road

I’ve been planning to write more regular posts of late. In this quest, I built a schedule, try to write a little each day, and keep a long running list of future topics for posts. I am truly working to get two articles out a month. It’s amazing what a little bit each day will do marching toward a goal. Still, this is a somewhat daunting task. Even this month, I’m running behind.

Looking at my site, I averaged one post a month last year, but these were intermittent. For example, I went on a roll in May, cranking out a few posts. In November, well, I went on vacation. It happens.

You do have to take time to give a little thanks, pardon the turkey, that sort of thing (I actually worked on the redesign of my site in November, sometimes it’s good to diversify projects and efforts. I do find it’s amazing what you can find out how to do on the internet. Like most things, technology is incredible when used for good and not evil).

There is also the challenge of writer’s block, which is why you have to ocassionally diversify projects and efforts. Like some writers, this hits me from time to time.

So, I’ve decided to follow these five rules in creating and writing a good blog post/writer’s diary. I call this internet click bait. If you put up a list, everyone has to read it. But my list won’t require five clicks to see Number 1. Having a list frames the mind, makes life a little easier (there also has to be rules in life). I hope folks find these helpful for writing a book, blog post or quick email. Here we go:

(1) Write something worth reading. I don’t write about politics; nor, do I post what I ate for breakfast. Yes, there are blogs out there where people posts their breakfast each morning. I have no idea why. In a few hundred years, I’m sure these posts will truly be valuable. I would like to have a list of what people ate in the 50s. Have you ever looked at how skinny people were in the 50s? They had to be eating the right way.

My goal is to write something useful, provide links to products I like, show off stuff I use to work smarter/harder, highlight projects I’ve been working on, or discuss the occasional experiment I’ve been running. I did try a water fast for a bit but didn’t find it worth commenting on. It also sucked big time.

(2) Picture your audience. Who are you writing for? For me, that’s hard to say. Mostly, I write to tell a story and entertain. Some write for themselves, nothing wrong with that. After all, writing is a form of therapy and expression. I am actively working on a project where I wrote something for one person. It was more than challenging and turned out to be a big effort. I’ll probably talk about it in the future. Like I said before, you have to have a pipeline of projects. Some just don’t turn out.

(3) Make said audience think a little. Our culture rarely takes the time to sit and think. This year, I have a New Year’s Resolution where I was supposed to sit and meditate for at least ten minutes each morning. To me, this has been hard. I’m almost two months in and have accomplished this seven times. I’m trying. Nothing wrong with thinking first thing in the morning. Compared to the normal zombie morning, it should be a best practice.

(4) Be truthful. I try not to project someone that’s not me. However, how you see yourself and how you are seen is often different. So, no guarantees on this one.

Nor, will I tell you something is great if it isn’t that great. I did a post on smart watches awhile back. I loved the Basis back then, but now I’ve switched to a Fitbit and Timex watch. The heart rate monitor wasn’t valuable to me. Sure, the resting heart rate is important. But it also doesn’t change much, at least mine didn’t. Maybe, it’s a question for the Big Data/Statisticians to delve into. For me, it was nothing more than a novelty that went away. And I did miss my watch. Old school watches are cool. Techno bands aren’t so much.

(5) Try to use good grammar. I make mistakes all the time but it should be another best practice. My Junior High grammar teacher Martha O’Dear would be proud. We need to bring back the sentence diagram. Then again, maybe not. But these essays aren’t books either. It’s hard to find a good balance of getting something out the door and hitting the publish key. Sometimes, the time comes to just move on. Better done than good.

These are simple and broad rules. As part of my writing pipeline, I had this idea built around the month of February. I wanted to time the release of a post between President’s Day and Valentine’s Day. What could I write about to tie the two together?

Well, I came up with this blog post titled, “Presidents I refuse to let my wife go on a date with.” Or, someting like that. This was going to be epic. I was sure of it.

I did a ton of groundwork on Presidents. I’ve always thought you had to be crazy to run for the highest office in the land. Mitt Romney must be crazy or truly dedicated. He was thinking about the trifecta. He might still do it.

Our Presidential history is fascinating. Take the following:

Andrew Johnson has to be the scariest President of all time. He was the first to be targeted for assassination. But what went wrong? Well, both of the conspirator’s guns misfired at point blank range. This is a statistical impossibility. Yet, it happened. Johnson went on to almost beat the guy to death with his cane. They didn’t call him Old Hickory for nothing. Upon leaving office, his only regret was that he didn’t kill John Calhoun in a duel. Yes, this was his Vice-President at the time. If you’re curious, Andrew Johnson wouldn’t be allowed to dine with my wife.

Woodrow Wilson had to be financially gifted. During WWI, Europe had gone truly mad. In terms of casualties, WWI battles were off the charts. Over 1.5M died in the first month. This is more than the United States lost in the entire Civil War. The United States bankrolled both sides. This is probably the largest transfer of wealth in the history of the world. I’d let my wife visit the White House during the Wilson administration. No dating. But a little financial advice never hurts.

I have more where this came from. As I was finalizing the structure of this essay, I came across a post titled the Five Most Badass Presidents of All-Time. Although not quite the same, it had about 40 percent the same content. I was angry and ready to go to war. Someone stole my idea! The only problem was that this was published two years ago, and the guy had already written a book on the topic.

To put the cherry on top, his execution was just better. It’s a hilarious post. I laughed out loud clicking through the rankings. You have to tip your hat to someone that just did it a bit better. The essay received like ten gazillion hits. My only consolation was that it was a good idea. Sigh.

Oh, I almost forgot. (6) Do a little research on your topic of choice. It might save you a little time and effort. One Google/Bing search found that great article on the first page. Hey, there is always tomorrow. That’s why the pipeline is important. There is reason drug companies spend big bucks on research. Every now and then, you’re going to find a bust. In case you’re wondering, I am still a little bent out of shape on losing my idea. That guy probably made millions on my idea. I don’t know how he stole it, but he did. Dick Dastardly said it best, Drat, Double-Drat, and Triple-Drat. I did love cartoons when I was a kid.

The Five Most Badass Presidents of All-Time, by Daniel O’Brien (Yeah, the site has a little click bait to it but the article is pretty good).

The Weekender, I do love this watch. It’s far cooler than the smartest smart watch.