This is a guest post by Mark Powers. Rock out! And, uh, thank ya very much.
Trying to be anyone other than yourself just doesn’t work.
As a musician, I’ve heard singer after singer waste their time and energy in an attempt to sound like someone else. One of my best friends used to try his darndest to emulate Eddie Vedder. But, try as he might, there’s only one Vedder. He would only come across as yet another wanna-be rocker trying to sound like he’s worthy of singing with Pearl Jam. Nope. Fail. That will never get you very far. Once my friend made the conscious decision to relax and just be himself onstage, that authenticity was quickly apparent to audiences and he became an overall better entertainer.
The same holds true for writing. It’s perfectly acceptable to have your influences, mentors and blogging idols. What’s not recommended is pretending to be those writers, rather than speaking with your own personal inner voice.
Here are the 2 keys to being yourself and writing accordingly:
1. Remember, even the king of the Kings is still just an impostor.
Another friend of mine was recently named [by Graceland] the Ultimate Elvis Presley Tribute Artist. While that’s certainly an enormous honor, and has increased his number of gigs and payscale, there’s one little problem. He’s mentioned on more than one occasion that, outside of the lip-curlin’, pelvis-pumpin’ Elvis-impersonation scene, he can’t get anyone to take him seriously. He’d love to be performing other styles of music when he’s around home, but it’s nearly impossible. He can shake, rattle and roll. But he can’t shake the public’s perception of him. He can’t be himself.
You’re a writer. Be you. Don’t even consider trying to mimic somebody else too closely. Don’t cuss simply because Naomi Dunford gets away with it (ED: curses), and people seem to think she’s cool. If you’re the quiet type, don’t spaz out at the beginning of every video blog because Gary Vaynerchuk does. That’s Gary being Gary (ED: i.e. hardcore!) He’d be the first to agree. And don’t clutter your posts with keyword phrases just because that what’s the SEO overlords command.
Write as you speak. And use your natural vocabulary. Don’t say “lackadaisical” if “lazy” would normally be the word to come out of your mouth.
2. Answer this: “Are You Sincere?”
No, I won’t go scaring you away by bursting into a rousing rendition of Andy Williams/Elvis Presley lyrics. But I will beg of you to write content that genuinely interests you. Topics that you’re passionate about. Ideas, products and happenings that have you crawling out of your skin with excitement. Things that you’d be blabbing on about to friends anyway, even if you didn’t have an online following (or were trying to grow one). As I mentioned earlier, your authenticity will shine through and capture your readers. If, on the other hand, you’re wildly ecstatic about building a website that focuses on dressage horse training, do not expend your resources researching and writing Thesis affiliate reviews and posts about guerilla social media tactics. Sure, that may generate some traffic to your site. But keep two things in mind:
A) That traffic won’t be staying long. When a reader interested in your latest Twitter trick swings by, he may stick around to read that particular post. But once he sees that the rest of the site is smattered with “equestrian competition” tips and “horse ballet” videos, he’s more than likely outta there! He’s been duped. There’s no other content to interest him. He won’t be subscribing to your RSS feed.
and B) Your valuable [and likely, limited] time could have been spent creating more fulfilling, high-quality, creative work. Posts that actually interest you. Writing about what you love.
Cliché as it may be, there is only one you. And I know that you have something original to say. Your own, uniquely fresh, outlook on the world. That’s what I want to read. Not you pretending to be Seth Godin or Chris Guillebeau.
When you’re honest with yourself and write just as honestly, that transparency will be noticed. People will want to read because they’ll value what you have to say, rather than struggling through the words of yet another regurgitating nincompoop.
But, speaking of regurgitating nincompoops, I’m not letting you out of here without singingsomething. And what’s more fitting than a rock ballad? I leave you with a few lines from Bryan Adams, which I imagine also reflect the sentiment of much of the reading public:
You know I’ll never go. As long as I know. It’s coming straight from the heart.
Have integrity. Be genuine. Reap the rewards.
… and comment below!
Mark Powers is a world percussionist and world traveler who blogs for creative-types at PowersPercussion.com. In addition to performing and teaching, Mark has released Ritimista, a world percussion play-along CD and is former co-holder of the Guinness World Record for Longest Drum Roll by a Group.
Image by chvad_sb
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