Dear Dr. Wobs:
I just finished Writing Without Bullshit and I’m looking for some material to help me get started in putting these new techniques to practice. I’m graduating college this spring, so I don’t have much required writing at the moment and I’d like to start developing strong writing habits before I enter the (supposedly) mean and scary real world. Thanks!
I have a one word answer for you. Blog.
Pick a topic that interests you. That might be politics, your volunteer work, marketing technology, or medical research . . . it hardly matters, as long as you’re interested in it.
Now challenge yourself to produce a substantive blog post at least once every two weeks. A substantive blog post has the following qualities:
- It’s about your own original thinking — your take on a particular topic.
- It’s 300 to 1,500 words long.
- It links to sources on the Web.
Because you’ve read my book, you’ll get to practice some of the principles in it. Make sure the title and the first few sentences tell the story. Use subheads, bullets, and graphics. Write in an active voice, jargon-free style that cuts back on the weasel words. Ask people to read your drafts, and respond to their edits.
Promote your posts with links from your Facebook or Twitter account.
Remember, the point is not whether you get any traffic or make an impact. The point is to write about something substantive and express original ideas with short, punchy, factual, insightful posts.
There’s a little bonus when you’ve done this for a while. When you apply for jobs and they ask, “What have you written?”, you can just point them to your blog. (If they’re sharp, they’ve already found it by googling you.)
Now your prospective employer has a place where they can see your bullshit-free writing style and ability to work with ideas and content. This helps, even if you’re looking for a job in sales and you’ve blogged about science.
When hiring writers, I have often asked myself “Can this person think? Can they carry on a logical argument effectively? Are they articulate in writing?” A blog makes it a lot easier to judge those answers.
If you’re intimidated by blogging, consider that it’s a lot easier than doing writing in a professional setting. You may as well get practicing now.
Have a question? Ask Dr. Wobs. If I pick your question, I’ll send you a free, signed copy of Writing Without Bullshit.