I remember when I finally burned out on writing. It was about 10 years ago. I had achieved a lifelong dream of publishing multiple books about programming. On top of that, I had a blog and mailing list with an audience of over 50,000 people. I published on my blog at least three times a week and tweeted a few times a day. Visibility from my books and blog helped me get speaking and consulting gigs for years.
Over time though, I started to struggle to keep up with this relentless writing schedule. It was not writing itself though. It was all the things you had to do outside of the writing itself. Anyone who has any sort of online business driven by content creation will understand what I mean.
Writing for the web in order to drive clicks or otherwise get engagement actually comes down to following a few single formulas every single time. Many of these formula affect the content itself: you must write short content, include search words, make sure to fulfill the promise of the title, use bullet points and so on. Essentially, you write in a way that search engines expect and are able to process and that people are likely to click on.
Unsurprisingly, when you write like that your content starts to look more like spam than thoughtful content. Another part of the formula is that you really need to always create content that lines up very closely to your audience's expectations. My audience wanted to know about iPhone programming. Any content that I would create outside of iPhone programming would essentially be ignored. It was wasted effort and when your schedule requires three new posts per week, daily tweeting, and you are working on books you rarely have time to waste on writing that does not generate results.
Writing for the web can be addicting when you start to see that validation. More clicks, more email sign-ups, more books sold, classed taught. Eventually though, I ran out of ideas for that little niche I was writing about for years. Yet I still have to crank out three posts a week. At least.
Writing became a formulaic exercise that I could barely get through each week. Whenever I would read someone else's blog posts I could see how they followed these so called "SEO" practices. It all just looks like spam. Millions of well meaning authors trying to get all our attention with an escalating series of SEO optimized content.
And I was part of it. Right in the middle of things and I was stuck.
As I fought to keep my business in the later years I became dependent on SEO. Everything I wrote had to be SEO optimized, had to lure you in, and it had to be selling you something. All in exchange for your attention.
Eventually, I burnt out. I couldn't even look at my iPhone or read about new programming techniques for the iPhone. It all looked like SEO and spam.
Years later, as I made attempts to get back into writing I brought that SEO addiction along with me. Even though I was writing personal essays or just scratching an itch for some random topic I still tried to optimize each post. I wanted that dopamine hit that only good SEO can get you. Those clicks, those subscribers.
Even my websites would follow the same pattern: most valuable call to action at the top, branding toward the left, make the site a value proposition. In short, I tried to turn my personal essay into a commodity. And in the meantime, I sucked the joy of writing.
This time it's different
I'm over it. I love writing and want to focus on doing the best writing I can. It's the one thing that I've always wanted. Maybe it will not be a business. I don't care. My focus now is to just write. This website is basically going to be a place to publish that work. Some will be bad, some with be experimental, and maybe some will be memorable one day.
I'm not going to worry about keywords or titles or if my piece challenges someone too much. Nor do I care if it's "viral" or will get retweets. I just want this website to feel like your are reading a Kindle. Not complicated. Not a sales page. This site should be worthy of your attention and my energy.