Why I Had No Choice But To Stop Idolizing Kerouac

It’s a hard thing to get older. You end up replacing some of that good, old-fashioned idealism with tough cynicism. As writers, some of our biggest influences die right before us. You realize that you can’t be them, and you can only barely be like them.

Keep the dream alive. But don’t forget you’re living in reality. That’s why I scaled back Kerouac’s influence on my writing.

I can’t be the only writer out there that considers Kerouac a genius. How old were you when you first read On the Road? The book is wildly appealing at any age. But if you read it as a teenager, there’s a romanticism that seems imitable.

But Kerouac was one of a kind. And it wasn’t just On the Road. Novels like Big SurThe Dharma Bums and The Subterraneans are all intense, lively and inspiring reads. They brim with youthful energy fueled by alcohol, sex and art.

Everyone wants to attain the raw energy of Kerouac’s writing, even in the world of professional writing. How do you get there? Stop trying to imitate him.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But flattery will get you nowhere with a dead author. It certainly won’t get you anywhere as a living writer. Trying to imitate someone like Kerouac is a dead-end for a writer. Especially a professional writer. His big, sweeping sentences are the exact kind that can lose your reader.

It’s sad when you finally give up imitation. But it also opens up a whole new world. It’s a scary world. We want to imitate successful writers to use them as a standard for our own writing. When you give up those influences and write from your heart, you’re likely to lose faith in your own unique voice.

Fortunately, that’s how writers get prolific in the first place. Remind yourself daily that none of your favorite writers imitated their favorite writers. Inspire yourself by discovering a style all your own and hone it to perfection.

Sexy Ways to Seduce Your Audience

Slip into something comfortable. Preferably something velour. Lay back on this leopard skin couch. Relax. Notice the subtle aroma of incense wafting about you.

How was your day? I prepared a nice candlelit dinner. Can you hear the booming baritone of the incomparable Barry White? It’s drifting into the room at dulcet volumes. The lights are dim and your eyes adjust. Go ahead. Grab one of the chocolate caramels on the coffee table in front of you. Feel it dance upon your taste buds.

If you aren’t feeling a slight hint of surreal sensuality, I haven’t done my job correctly. Everyone knows sex sells. But are we losing our understanding of that concept?

That depends on your definition of ‘sexy’.

Today, big brands like GoDaddy (woof) use blatant sexual imagery to sell. But sex sells itself. If that’s your strategy for seducing your audience, you better start over. Consider this: researchers at Iowa State University found that “viewers of programs with sexually explicit or violent content were less likely to remember commercials immediately after watching and even 24 hours later.”

As a writer, you should already have a grasp for why this is. Favoring your primary message is the best way to keep your reader on task. You want the reader to be turned on by your product. To accomplish this, seducing your audience takes place in undertones. It requires subtlety. Here are a few ways to get it done.

Consider alliteration an alluring aloe. Overusing alliteration translates to cheesy copy. Used sparingly, alliteration creates enticing, compelling moments of copy that add a layer of sexiness to your content.

Play with your diction. Everyone has words they consider emotional triggers. Want to sex up your copy? Use loaded words. A word like ‘succulent’ can evoke a strong response. Go ahead. Say it out loud. Succulent. Rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?

Massage some tight words. I’m consistently saying that strong copy is highly understandable. You wouldn’t speak in Shakespearian dialogue to a modern audience, for instance. But a colorful word every now and again can add some flair to your copy, even if it’s a bit more high-brow. Provide substantial context clues. And have a clear understanding of your audience before you head down this path.

Take us to another world. There’s no better way to seduce your audience than to get sensual. Use sensual stimuli to take your readers out of their desk chairs and transport them to another world. You can accomplish this by describing how things smell, taste, feel, sound and look.

If You Can’t Say Something Nice, Say Something Constructive

There’s no curing the epidemic of negativity on social networks. You, however, can gain immunity. An apple a day and such.

Your social networks are jam-packed with negativity and passive-aggressive content. It leaks into the blogosphere, too. As a reader, you can sniff out negativity. It usually doesn’t sit so well.

I get email updates every now again from a prominent blog in its space. But I just can’t bring myself to read it anymore. Every post details something you shouldn’t do. It tears down some company or individual who is doing the wrong thing. It reeks of self-importance and a downright negative perspective. There’s nothing attractive there anymore, so I delete the update almost every morning. (I stay subscribed because every now and again, he shares an interesting nugget of information.)

Negativity will naturally seep into your writing sometimes, especially when you’re inspired by a conflicting opinion. Unless it’s done with purpose (for humor, a one-off or a direct response), it may be killing the reader’s will to live.

“I disagree with him, Mr. Trump. Your hair looks like a live muskrat today, not a dead one.”

The real problem with negativity is how it affects the overall tone. You can be snarky without being negative. Sarcasm is more difficult to pull off.

Guess what? There’s a cure for negativity. It’s called being constructive. Remember that short fiction class you took in college? Of course you don’t; you were stoned. The first rule of that class was to always contribute constructive feedback. Use that every single day when you sit down to write. The process is kind of like laundering money: take that negative energy and invest it in a related, constructive concept. It comes out clean on the other side with your point intact.

Here are a few examples:

  • “Five Reasons Mitt Romney Sucks Ass” becomes “Five Ways Mitt Romney Can Improve His Campaign”
  • “I hate everything about the Jersey Shore” becomes “Jersey Shore may be the downfall of America, but here’s what we can do to stop it.”
  • “Someone should punch Donald Trump in the dick” stays the way it is. There’s just no getting around how much that guy sucks.

Now fly, my minions, and spread some positive thinking!

Guest Blog Everywhere You Can

Want to accelerate your content marketing? Add subscribers to your blog? Gain stronger search traction for your website?

Guest blog everywhere you can.

Little known fact: “guest” blogging is named after popular actor/director Christopher Guest.

A lot of content marketing strategies don’t even get this phase off of the ground. “Pish-posh! Humbug!” you say, stroking your luxurious scrivener’s beard. “I’m creating enough content for mine own blog! Why should I write for someone else’s blog? Who doth buy the ink for mine quills?”

It’s the twenty-first century, man. In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make. Are you really going to argue with the Beatles?

You have an opportunity to reach a brand new audience. If you’re targeting the right blogs, chances are they have a larger audience, too. As long as your content is high-quality, the blogs are happy to help you promote your brand. They’ll repay you by linking back to your website, where you can capture leads or open up your content marketing to a wider audience.

A client of mine just began a guest-blogging tear. It’s been a huge help supplementing promotion of the CEO’s new book. By just sending simple emails, we have a 75 percent acceptance rate. Michael’s posts have been featured in SocialMouths, JeffBullas.com and Techipedia. We’re queued up for slots in major blogs like ProBlogger and Social Media Explorer. Each time a post goes live, the Duo Consulting homepage sees a traffic spike.

Have you given it a shot? You’d be surprised at how willing other bloggers are to accept posts. A few tips:

  • Research the blog first. Understand the audience.
  • Then, develop a post concept that you think they’d read.
  • Pitch the blogger or other editorial contact with the post idea.
  • If it’s accepted, you can finally draft the post.

Check out services like MyBlogGuest and GuestBlogIt to save a little time researching blogs.

How to Stop Rambling About Yourself

Attention, aspiring writers and bloggers! How do I put this gently? Eh, screw gentility. Shut the hell up already!

You’re rambling about yourself again. I get it. It’s a subject you’re excited about.

Look deep into the…wait, what the hell? Where’s your reflection? Begone, undead beast!

Part of the problem is you just aren’t that interesting. But before you get down on yourself, you should understand that your perspective is.

The only times it’s okay to write about yourself are:

  • To establish credibility with a fresh audience
  • To frame your experience in the context of the bigger picture
  • To empathize or connect with your audience
  • To keep an embarrassing dream journal that only you will read
  • To make a hilarious joke

People read your writing for your perspective. That’s why the majority of the web’s blogs are followed by about seven people. Those people use blogs as their personal diaries. That’s totally fine, but they shouldn’t expect a gigantic readership.

Whenever you start writing, ask yourself how your reader stands to benefit by spending five minutes glued to the screen.

You’re a big kid now. Start writing like one.

How to Make Your Shitty Headlines Pretty

I think most savvy web users are becoming familiar with effective headlines, even if that familiarity is occurring in your subconscious.

For bloggers, headlines are critical. They’re first impressions. They’re a means for search optimization. They summarize, intrigue and captivate.

Forget the papes, I’m startin’ my own blog.

If you have a sneaking suspicion that your headlines are shitty, there’s plenty you can do to ground yourself. Take a look at some of the tips below.

1. “How to” headlines are a-okay. Kind of an introspective reference there, yes? People love “how to” posts because they’re straightforward. They lead with the purpose (practical advice) and follow with the subject matter. There’s no question about what the content should present.

2. Ask a question. Questions leave an air of mystery to your post. If presented well, they evoke the desired response from the reader: they read on to learn more. Make sure that questions are provocative, accurate to the content and are answered by your post.

3. Tie in trends. You can draw in fresh hits when you keep content timely. Reflect posts that cover trending topics in your headlines. That’ll help your search presence, drawing in readers researching those news topics.

4. Kill the buzzword. Every time you write a buzzword, a copywriter has a seizure. Don’t be that guy. Stay away from buzzwords like “industry-leading,” “innovative,” etc. They can be big turn-offs.

5. Stay positive. When you’ve developed an audience, you can tie in a negative post headline every so often. Until then, try to stay positive. Believe it or not, people aren’t searching for more negativity to add to their lives. They can visit their Facebook news feeds for that.

For a crash-course in writing headlines, check out this post over at Copyblogger. And add that shit to your blog roll! They’re pretty neat.

Corporate Blogging Guidelines: Working with a Writer

This guy started working on this blog post at age 15.

Hey marketers. Here’s a little something for your constant headache.

Businesses new to corporate blogging may think its a brilliant idea to leverage their staff for content. Great! You have an army of people with useful information. It takes the burden off of the marketing coordinator. You’ll just get in there and edit the draft and BOOM. Successful blog. Score one for the marketer.

Then, the sobering reality: you’ll spend more time chasing down staff for things they promised than you’ll spend actually editing & posting content.

Believe me, they’ll be enthralled to take part. It’s happened at every business ever. Especially for high-level members of the staff. They’ll be incredibly enthusiastic about the topic.

But writing takes time. And the deflation of creative enthusiasm happens in mere seconds if you don’t know where to start. That’s why your CTO will never get you his 10,000-word treatise on service-oriented architecture that you’d planned to spread over 20 posts. He’ll get bored, he’ll get busy, and he’ll never return to the page, no matter how much you nag.

May I suggest an alternative? Make use of an internal (or freelance…wink wink) writer to spend 15 minutes interviewing staff with brilliant ideas. Capture the content and let someone who is assuredly undaunted by the creative process take on the burden of its completion.

Relying on your staff for content is a gigantic headache. Do it more efficiently and you’ll have a steady flow of useful insights for your audience.

5 Reasons to Create “5 Reasons” Posts

The biggest blogs on the web are stacked with “list” posts, or articles that include tips, tricks, favorites and the like. You may recognize list posts parading in such classic forms as “5 Reasons,” “3 Tips,” “15 Blogs,” “4 Ways,” etc.

You see these posts ad nauseam everywhere you go. There’s a reason people use them, like most marketing techniques that are done to death. Except for just about everything in GoDaddy’s playbook. That shit is beyond me.

Short digressions aside, people create list posts because they’re successful. For whatever reason, if you throw a number in your headline, you’ll grab the attention of your audience. Here’s some insight into why.

Courtesy The Official Blog of Gathering Books

1. Easy to read: My personal opinion is that the author projects the facade of a concise, organized post that serves as an easy, useful read. When you’re trying to appeal to an audience of professionals with ever-shrinking attention spans, that’s an important distinction to make right off the bat.

2. Organize your thoughts: Hey, even professional writers skip the “outline” process sometimes. With list posts, you can simplify organization by “skipping” the outline process and merging it with your post. And let me tell you; it’s a huge f-ing time saver.

3. Readers relate: Whether it’s laundry, grocery or to-do, people everywhere create lists to organize their daily lives. Your audience may have the capacity to read long, in-depth feature articles, but they’ll relate better to lists.

4. Attract content curators: Because list posts get so much traction, bloggers and content curators looking for high-quality posts may request to reprint your post. Or they’ll say screw it and steal your content anyway. As long as you get proper credit and a link, this is a good way to bolster dissemination of your content.

5. Why not? You got a better idea?

Content Dethroned: Communication is King

If these kings were content, would they be stabbing themselves in the head?

To those not in the know, this headline could be misleading. Let me clarify: content is still king, but content is also the byproduct of communication.

If you had a simple ability to connect members of your audience, would you actively block it? Would you close the comments section of your blog? If you had an active audience crying out for forums, would you deny them?

Executives with years of one-way marketing experience sometimes impose this hurdle. Before the internet, brand control was job number one. Now, entrepreneurs and executives must accept that people are discussing their brands in public forums.

They obsess over negative brand perception in a company-managed space. “This is my website, dagnabbit, and I’ll be dagnabbed if I’ll let dagnabbers speak ill of my company here.” (That’s how I imagine executives in my head.)

There’s a simple and absolutely critical policy that businesses should adopt immediately or risk failure. Stop trying to control the brand and start controlling the conversation.

If someone has something negative to say, they’re going to say it. Don’t you want the opportunity to respond? While I think this is the key selling point, there’s a ton more to it than just that.

Opening public communication channels like ‘comments’ sections or forums offers you benefits like:

  • FREE content: Yep, you heard it here, folks. Let people chat in a public forum and you gain a raging stream of free content. That means better search visibility, more new and return visitors and less time spent building content on your end.
  • Reduced support workload: How much time do you spend answering questions about your business and/or product? How often do you have to answer the same questions over email? Think of how much time you can save if the answers lived in one spot. Not to mention, other members of the community jump at the chance to answer questions. Don’t buy it? Ask Autodesk.
  • A searchable knowledge base: Beyond support, your content (in a blog or other social media channel) might open up to a wider discussion relevant to everyone in your market. That’s the point of your content marketing in the first place: to draw in leads with valuable content. Let your audience interact and they’ll support the cause.
  • Greater brand loyalty: Empower your followers with a voice and they’ll thank you. If they’re deriving value from your content and making useful connections, they stand a much better chance of becoming brand advocates.

A marketer could spend his or her entire day policing your brand across various venues online. Make your website a place to share and discuss, and you can get a better handle on brand perception.

Copywriting Is Dead

Have you ever assembled a piece of furniture? Reading the directions is like taking a blow to the head from a drunken frat boy.

Reminds me of the old days of marketing. No one talked like a human. Companies loved the sound of their own voices. Business is catching up with the world of social media, and it turns out people would rather hear from real human beings.

Copywriting is dead — at least in the traditional sense of the practice. What I hope this blog will impart on its readership is that you can all finally drop the act. Throw formality out the window and start speaking to your target audience in a voice they can relate to. And don’t be afraid to end a sentence or two with a preposition.

You’re asking, “Who the hell is this guy?” I’m just a man, like any other. I’m also a freelance writer. I’ve ghostwritten a business book, created web copy for entire websites and dabbled in writing mediums you’ve never even heard of.

I write good, and I’m here to help you write gooder. So let’s get this thing started.