There are plenty of rules out there on the internet about how you “should” write. Well, I say shoulds are just another form of cognitive distortion, so it’s time to kick some of those rules to the curb and replace them with anti-rules for writing.
Write every day
Apparently this is something you’re supposed to do in order to grow as a writer. That’s fine if a) you’ve got free time on your hands, b) have boundless creativity, and/or c) you don’t have a mental illness. The reality is that for some people writing every day is not going to be realistic or desirable. We all have our unique writing process.
I don’t write every day; I write in spurts, and that works for me, especially since I can use the scheduling feature to keep the reader-facing output consistent. Mental illness likes to get in the way, and I accept that.
Have a writing ritual
If a ritual or a certain writing environment helps you, that’s great. But no matter how wonderful the ritual, it’s not going to help you avoid the occasional writer’s block, creative burnout, or flare-up of illness. Try to be flexible and allow yourself to go with the flow, even if sometimes that doesn’t seem to be getting you anywhere.
Write consistently within your niche
Your blog is your space to write about whatever you want; niche if you want, but you certainly don’t have to. Sure, maybe not all of your readers are going to be interested in reading all the different topics that you cover, but that’s okay. They’re perfectly capable of picking and choosing what they want to read. You do you.
If you choose to branch out into controversial topics, that’s okay too, but be aware that not everyone’s going to agree with you and some people might unfollow you. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write about those topics; just try not to take it personally if those topics or your viewpoint don’t work for some of your readers.
Write about the topics that generate the most traffic
Some people will say that you should write based on what your readers want to read, and which of your past posts have done the best. To me, that sounds like a crappy way to approach blogging. It would be one thing if you had a business-oriented site and the blogging was just a side thing to draw people in, but if you’re actually participating in the blogging community, you’re better off being your genuine self and letting that shine through in your blog.
If you write about what you’re interested in and what you care about, that’s going to show up in what you write. The more you’re interested in and enjoying your topics are, the easier it will be for blogging to be sustainable for you over the long haul.
Make sure your writing is fully SEO optimized
Now that I’ve got the WP business plan, I have access to the Yoast SEO plugin. While it has some usefulness, mostly it annoys me. You are “supposed” to have your keywords crammed in particular places, even if that screws up your intro. And Yoast calculates a readability score. Most of my posts score very low (as shown by a little red frowning face) on readability. Too much passive voice, too many long sentences, and too many words that aren’t at a grade 6 reading level.
To that, I say bite me, Yoast. I’m not going to let SEO dictate my writing. I’m going to do me. After all, it’s people who are actually going to be reading the blog; search engines are just of way of possibly getting a few more people there to do that reading.
Revise until it’s perfect
You can fuss over a post until the cows come home and chances are it still won’t be perfect, because there really is no perfect. I say just go right ahead and publish it, mistakes and all. As long as it’s not such a dog’s breakfast that it’s unreadable no one is going to get worked up over it. And if they do, that’s their problem, not yours.
I recently installed the Grammarly plugin for Google Chrome, because I wasn’t taking enough time to proofread. It’s helpful, but annoying at the same time. Grammarly and I disagree on how to use commas most effectively. It can red-underline things all it wants; I’m going to write my way.
Since WordPress has shifted everyone over to the block editor, Grammarly doesn’t work very well, so my posts are even more imperfect. I can live with that.
Write what you know
This one was suggested by Dark Victories. If you want to write about what you know, fabulous. If you want to explore new ideas and topics, do it! I have a series that runs each Friday, and every single post is researched. It means that each week I learn something new and so do my readers. What a great way to keep life interesting!
And as a little side benefit, linking to the sites you’ve used to do your research is good for your SEO.
One single rule to follow: Avoid excessively long paragraphs
Do you ever try to read someone’s post and it’s one monumental paragraph taking up your entire computer screen? It’s not easy, and chances are high that readers are going to at least consider giving up before reaching the end of the post. Take pity on your readers, and break paragraphs up into digestible pieces. Long post = go for it. Long post all in a single paragraph = unreadable.
Well, there you have it, my anti-rules and one real rule. Are there any other anti-rules for writing you can think of that I’ve missed?