Advice on Writing — it’s not all Good Guff
In ancient Greece, rhetoric was taught in school. Defined by Wikipedia as “the art of persuasion”, the ability to speak effectively, swaying one’s listeners — such as a jury or a public assembly — was regarded as a crucial life skill. A citizen had to master rhetoric to succeed in life.
There were graduate classes available. Noted rhetoricians made a tidy living from giving seminars to up-and-coming young men — it was always men in those days; women didn’t have the capacity to think, apparently — who wished to stand out in politics, the law, or in other fields where the ability to persuade was useful. If Mad Men had been set in Classical Athens, the advertising executives would all have been trained in rhetoric.
But the real money came from one-on-one tuition. Here is where the student learnt the secrets, was coached on delivery, and given the finishing touches to a glittering career. Vast sums were demanded for private mentoring and willingly paid because the potential for future profit was so great.
After all, one might become a teacher of rhetoric oneself, and charge immense fees for private services.
How often do you see articles or blog posts with titles such as “How I made $25 000 per month blogging from home”?
These are the modern-day teachers of rhetoric. Just as the rhetors of Ancient Greece made a gold-plated living — solid gold for the most notable — so too do certain bloggers and writers make a bundle writing about writing.
“If I can do it, with nothing more than a copy of Word and an internet connection, then you can too!” they say seductively.
It’s like winning the lottery without buying a ticket! Sit at home with a cooling beverage by your side writing about this and that, checking your bank balance in between hitting the “Publish” button.
And you are a good writer, yeah? You tell stories, you can do research, you can go out and do the social media thing. Nothing stopping you from making that promised monthly income.
So you read their blog posts, sign up for the mailing list, download the free e-book, subscribe to the members-only zone, take up the offer of a webinar, and finally pay a few hundred for the individual blog assessment and mentoring.
And at the end of all this, you know exactly how they make their income. By taking it out of your pocket and putting it in theirs.
Yes, it’s all good guff, but they aren’t making a living out of writing so much as writing about writing. You aren’t going to make the same money just by writing blog posts, no matter how well researched they are and how much grammar and spelling you can cram into them, now are you? Not if your income is a few bucks from Google Adwords and Amazon affiliate links.
To make that money you have to do what they have done. Write about making money. Entice readers in with clickbait headlines, entice them to subscribe to your newsletter, your expert classes, your private tutorials. Oh, how the money rolls in!
But it can be done, yeah?
It can be done. You can make money by writing, and every now and then you’ll see articles with titles like “How I made $500 from a single blog post.”
That title should really be “When” not “How”, but yes, it is possible to write something and hit all the aces. A good article on a timely subject that goes viral and brings the readers flooding in, maybe buying your e-book and a few bucks in affiliate sales along the way. Jackpot!
The “How” part is not so much a recipe for success so much as how to set yourself up for getting lucky. You can find articles on:
- Finding a writing platform
- Installing the software
- Establishing a social media brand
- Finding a format that works
- Doing the research
- Writing the headlines
- Setting up the SEO
- Ensuring accuracy of grammar, spelling, style
- Finding eye-catching images
- Developing a voice
And on and on. The nuts and bolts knowledge of writing and getting people to read your writing is gold. You won’t have to pay for it, except with your time, and down the track by paying it forward with similar articles of your own.
And a lot of putting it into practice, practice, practice.
Get the tools and use them
That’s how it is done. Gain the skills, do the hard yards, keep on writing. If you are any good at all, you will build up a following, engage with your readers and have a great time. You’ve got to have fun writing, because you want your readers to have fun reading and keep on coming back for more.
If you are following a formula and cranking out the SEO steps to success listed in some How-to-make-a-million blog it will be formulaic and repetitive and boring and that will come across in your writing. Nobody will be having a party. Not you, not your readers.
Think positive, think about having you and your readers finish on an upbeat note, with a smile on their face, a head full of fresh new ideas, and most of all a desire to return tomorrow for more, and you are on the road to happiness. If not riches.
I can’t make money for you. Hell, if I had a magic formula, I’d be using it myself, instead of counting every pageview penny and dreaming of maybe being able to afford my monthly internet bill.
But I’m in this for the fun. I’ve always liked writing, I like to pass on some good guff, I like to talk about all the things I learn along the way.
That’s how to find the fair dinkum teachers of writing. They are teaching you about writing. Not about writing about writing. See the difference?
Once they ask you for money to learn the secrets, go elsewhere. Unless, of course, you want to be one of those fast-talking rhetoricians making a mint of money, rather than writing about things you like.
There are a tonne of great places for great writing advice. Here on Medium, there is the Writing Cooperative as a very good example of what I’m talking about. They don’t promise thousands every month. They provide good advice about writing, they aren’t making writing about writing their main gig — they all have their own specialist topics and publications and blogs — and they set high standards.
There are other places. Just enter “writing” in the search bar and let your eyes guide your fingers. Chances are you’ll look up a few hours later, tired but happy.
Ah, you’ll likely find a few articles along the way promising riches. Read them with an open mind.
And let me know how it goes, will you? If you find a really good story — Hell, it might even be your own! — Let me know by responding below. I’m in as much need of improvement as the next person.