(If you need to know what this is all about, start with the first post in this series and follow the links.)
Today, I want to…
write something worth reading.
Despair.com has an interesting take on all the writing going on these days. Their “Blogging” lithograph says it succinctly: “Never before have so many people with so little to say said so much to so few.” Let’s break out of this cynical mode. Let’s write something worth reading.
Don’t write something to make you popular. Don’t write something to make you millions. Don’t write something to make you look good. Write something worth reading. If you do, some of those other things may happen; then again they may not. If you write to pursue popularity, prosperity, or prestige, you will never be anything more than a hack, chasing the whims of the fickle masses. Your writing will leave you empty, unfulfilled, meaningless, and used.
However, if you dig down inside your own heart, mining the gold God has given you through your own background, passions, study, experiences, and write something worth reading, you’ll find fulfillment, meaning, and usefulness in your writing. Whether many or few like your writing won’t matter. Whether people flock to your writing, tossing money in your direction won’t matter. Whether critics pan you or heap accolades upon you won’t matter. You will have connected with something deeper.
So much of today’s writing is nothing more than the pursuit of our own exhibitionist and voyeuristic desires. We want to exhibit ourselves and we want to pursue the secret lives of those around us. Why else do you think blogging has become the new medium for all writing? So few people care if what they write is worth reading, if it adds to the great conversation, if it lifts up. So many have little opinions about so much and think everyone should learn them no matter what. Too many think having a pulse and a computer makes them an expert on politics, religion, life.
It is too easy to write without thought. We text, we Twitter, we Facebook, we MySpace, we blog, we e-mail, we comment. The question is do we think? Or do we just react? Are we writing something worth reading?
5 Keys to Write Something Worth Reading
1. Keep it simple
Don’t get caught up in author arrogance. Don’t think anything worth reading is worth being really long. Don’t think you have to be some profound philosopher, writing the next manifesto of world change.
We all dream of being authors. However, writing something worth reading doesn’t mean having a best-selling book. Today, you can write something worth reading by sending someone an encouraging card. You can write something worth reading by sending a thank you note. You can write something worth reading by blogging about what you learned from your children. You can write something worth reading by sending a letter to your parents. You can write something worth reading by texting some encouragement.
However, if you are writing a book or a world-changing blog, you still need to follow this principle. Keep it simple. We don’t need to know how erudite you are. If you’re smart, we’ll figure it out as you connect with us simply.
2. Keep it true
By true, I don’t mean simply factual. Fiction can be worth reading. “Lord of the Rings” and “Pride and Prejudice” come to mind. Rather, I mean true, sound, right. I mean write something that rings with truth, connects to truth, promotes truth.
Obviously, don’t spread lies and rumors even if you’re writing about the Presidential candidate you think will ruin the country. Perhaps I should include that you should only forward things worth reading too.
More than that, write something to connect your readers to truth. After all, truth will set you free. Certainly, in the original biblical context of that statement it speaks of spiritual salvation. At the same time, that statement applies across the board. Passing on lies and error will only cripple your readers, limiting them. Truth will set them free.
Remember, what is true is anchored in God. He created the universe. He created us. Disparaging that may salve your conscience for your life, but it will not set anyone free. Whether you are writing in the scientific realm, the spiritual realm, the emotional realm, or whatever realm of life you wish, anchor your writing back to God’s truth. Do this without fear. Remember, we aren’t writing to be popular. The teeming masses will reject what is true. But at least what you wrote will be worth reading, whether the masses want to read it or not.
3. Keep it genuine
God gave you your abilities, strengths, background, experiences, emotions. He did not give you someone else’s. Don’t try to be someone else when you write. Certainly, as our next installment explains we also want to read something worth sharing. When we do, we may want to share something worth reading. That’s okay. However, simply quoting someone else is not writing something worth reading. If we are going to write something worth reading, we need to write from ourselves.
I was tempted to say, “Keep it original.” However, there is nothing new under the sun. What is inside you is there because of the people you’ve met, the books you’ve read, the experiences you’ve had. The fact is, even what is genuine with you is not original in the truest sense. But that is okay. Since what is true comes from God, you don’t want to be truly original anyway.
So, quit shooting for true originality and instead be genuine. What have you learned? What have you experienced? What are you passionate about? What are you dying to share? Latch on to that and write it.
Write it your way. Certainly, learning the craft of writing is necessary. Writing it your way doesn’t mean ignore rules of spelling and grammar. Yet, be real. Be you.
4. Make it a gift
“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (Proverbs 25:11). Our words should “give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29). Even if you have to rebuke, refute, or correct someone when you write, your words should be as a gift.
Be careful here. The point is not to think your writing is God’s gift to mankind. He’s already given that gift and you weren’t chosen to write it. What I mean is as you consider what you will write, do so in a way your audience will feel it has received a real gift. Write something that will build them up, strengthen them, encourage them. Write something that is about your reader, not about you. When you have to correct, do so with gentleness and empathy, not arrogance.
Granted, not everyone will recognize what you say as a gift. However, you need to constantly check your motivation before you write. Are you trying to put someone in their place or lift them up on a pedestal? Are you trying to shut someone down or build them up? Are you trying to exalt yourself or someone else? If you are merely trying to feed your own ego, it won’t be worth reading. No matter how wrong the recipient is, if you’re just trying to prove you’re better, it won’t be worth reading.
5. Make it clear
Writing just anything is easy. Writing something worth reading takes work. The modern computer medium often promotes rambling. You circle and circle and circle and ramble and ramble and ramble. You wrote a lot. You may have even written something good. However, anything worth reading is lost in the midst of stream of consciousness gobbledy-gook.
Please, please, please, do not say, “But I just want to write from the heart.” Do not blame your heart for bad, unclear writing. Think before you write. Consider the purpose for which you are writing and stay on task. Outline what you will write, even if only in your mind. Take what is on your heart and run it through your brain before you type it on the page.
In most mediums, this means use acceptable grammar, syntax, and spelling. Don’t be lazy in your writing. I know most people writing today are. I know most people don’t seem to care. But most people aren’t writing something worth reading. You are. Granted, as much as it pains me, you might still be clear if you text someone writing, “u r 2 awesome.” However, don’t let text messaging syntax become your normal writing pattern.
If you really want to write something worth reading, you might even want to read some books worth sharing on writing and grammar. Do whatever it takes to keep it clear.
Something Worth Reading
You don’t have to write something every day. However, if you plan on writing today, press the pause button. Check your motivation. Check your truthfulness. Check your clarity. Check your purpose. Are you just adding to the noise or is it really worth reading?