It’s been a busy start of the year for me and I haven’t been able to publish nearly as much as i’d like to, because i’m trying to figure out how to write for a purpose.
When I started writing travel I stuck to basic informational pieces, they were useful to a point, and I loved when they were able to help people, but I grew sick of myself for writing them and being a part of the “content-mill” generation of writers.
You know, the list’s of articles like “10 Best Caribbean Destinations” or better yet, “20 Travel Tips You CAN’T Live Without”?
While those posts are enjoyable to skim through and if you’re lucky, you’ll learn something you hadn’t known before, they aren’t much more than that. So is that what I want to be known for? As that travel list guy? Not really.
There’s no doubt that these lists have brought me a fair amount of success and landed me jobs that paid me to write, a difficult feat in itself, just take a look at this one that’s nearing 500,000 shares:
That article landed me a job that paid me thousands of dollars a month for only working a few hours per week – pretty good for a twenty year old in college. It helped me pay my bills, bought me my new Mac Air I needed for when I travel, AND a $1,300 round-trip plane ticket to Europe.
But that style of writing is not who I feel that I am. When I write, I want people to go grab a cup of coffee, sit in a cozy chair, and read it for the next forty minutes. Bookmark it and send the link through email to their friends or share it on Facebook. I want it to make people think critically, be more highly informed, and not just skim through the sensationalized subheadings in thirty seconds.
I’m fighting everything that digital media is going towards.
Because of these longer articles, it allows me to fill them with a depth that wouldn’t be possible in a listicle. The downside is that it takes much longer to craft and write. I can whip out a 750 word “Top 10” list that sells in about five minutes, but when i’m creating mountains of text, I expect no less than two weeks and a high amount of effort. I’ll even bring out the whiteboard and start sketching.
There are certain sites that I follow that inspire me, such as the Newyorker, which often writes what some may call “books”, for articles. Each one a beautifully written masterpiece that can be read five years from now and still have an impact, unlike your average “Top 10” post.
I’ve spent some time writing a few of these posts and while I don’t claim that they hold their weight against the Newyorker, I do say that they are more powerful than any content-mill post I could publish. In a way, it’s how i’m working on developing my own voice, because you don’t really see many travel writers dropping 4,000 words on an article all too often, not that it’s a bad thing if they don’t.
[Examples of long posts i’ve written:
Another reason that these extensive articles take so long to publish is because it can be hard to be certain that it’s perfect when you finish writing it. Take an article i’m working on now, for example. It’s been sitting on my laptop for the past month and a half, completely written. 5,000 words done. But something felt off about it and I couldn’t place it, so I sent it to a good friend (who I believe to be a better writer than I), and asked him to give me some feedback. He gave me his thoughts and now i’m reworking the piece, so hopefully it doesn’t take me too much longer before I get it on the blog.
There have been a few other things on my plate as well, all good, that have been slowing down the writing process as well. My little confession is that only until recently have I actually been actively trying to improve my writing. To work on finding my own voice in it that’s powerful and can paint images with words as if paint on canvas. And while I have been working on a Creative Writing degree for the past 2.5 years, something in me has only recently clicked, and now I want to make sure that I get my writing right.
So i’ve started by enrolling in a Journalism class, looking at post-graduate degrees, and getting into publishing through print (which i’ll share with the e-mail list). I took a position as the Editor-in-Chief of my universities Creative/Academic Journal, so I can look upon the finer things in writing that make a story work. And I’ve begun reading books on the matter, interviewing people, asking for feedback, and studying those that have come before me.
It’s every persons quest in life to find out their purpose if they choose to pursue it and I firmly believe that mine is with writing, even though I often feel my writing is atrocious. It’s a learning process and i’m but a humble student to its will.
So while I feel bad that there has been a lack of posts as of late, I promise you that there are many great stories and tid bits of wisdom on travel to come. I’ll still even occasionally publish a listicle, and I may even enjoy the straight-forwardness of it for the reader and the ease of it for myself, but my search for discovering the ways of powerful writing continue. Until next time, my friends.