The Writers' Workshop: You Can't Do That!
A LOOK AT ONE OF THE MASTERS
Isn’t that a great quote? A bit frightening because of the truth in it, but great nonetheless!
I was thinking about that quote this morning as I was preparing an article for publication. My norm is to write the article, then edit it, then check on SEO keywords, insert those, and then publish the article. This is basically the same process I have used for decades with the exception of the SEO keywords, a new animal that seems to attract a great deal of attention from writers of late.
I reflected upon my first few weeks on this site, HubPages, and a couple messages I received after I had posted some personal articles about my life and lessons learned. Those articles were certainly not “evergreen” in nature, and because of that I heard from a few well-meaning writers who told me that my kind of writing just wasn’t going to make it on HubPages, that HubPages was more a site for those who write about topics that “pertain” to the world today. You know, the best ways to raise kids, and how to save money, and how to start your own business….those sorts of articles.
I was even referred to the Learning Center where it is recommended that the type of writing that I do is just not conducive to success on HubPages. I am what you would call a journalist, and there just isn’t a mass market for that style. Sigh!
Well, I am still here, rapidly approaching one year, and I have seen a certain amount of success with my unorthodox style, and I have been well-received, which all leads me to this article.
I was wondering today what John Steinbeck would have thought about SEO. I was wondering about Harper Lee, and Hemingway, and well, heck, Shakespeare! Would they have had the same reaction as I have towards SEO, or would they have jumped on the gravy train and done what was “necessary”?
LET US VISIT STEINBECK
“The wind grew stronger, whisked under stones, carried up straws and old leaves, and even little clods, marking its course as it sailed across the fields. The air and the sky darkened and through them the sun shone redly, and there was a raw sting in the air. During the night the wind raced faster over the land, dug cunningly among the rootlets of the corn, and the corn fought the wind with its weakened leaves until the roots were freed by the prying wind and then each stalk settled wearily sideways toward the earth and pointed the direction of the wind.”
That passage, from “The Grapes of Wrath,” is just classic Steinbeck. Raw, dirty, weather-beaten, tearing at your guts and bringing your senses to warning status, the master at his best!
I read that, and then I began to wonder; what if Mr. Steinbeck had SEO to contend with? What changes would he make to that one paragraph so that he could assure himself that the search engines would smile upon him? Perhaps complete phrases would have to be re-written to please the computer gods, because certainly that paragraph, as it reads, is destined for writer’s purgatory. It simply is not SEO friendly now is it?
Well, the answer to that question is, of course, that Steinbeck would not make any changes because, quite frankly, it is sheer genius as it is written. The masters who came before us did not concern themselves with Google; they only concerned themselves with writing to the best of their ability. They concerned themselves with their content, and with improving their content, so that when they were finished, they could read their work, and nod their heads, and feel that they had given their best.
I’m trying to picture Steinbeck tailoring his writing to please a machine, a computer, a tangle of microchips and wiring and coding. Better yet, I’m trying to picture Hemingway, sitting in his villa, pouring a shot of tequila, and debating how to squeeze five more SEO friendly phrases into “The Old Man and the Sea.”
Sorry, I just can’t picture it!
There is no substitute for content. You can write the most search-friendly articles ever devised, but if your content is junk the SEO will not save you. I am astounded by the amount of junk I see on the internet today. There are featured articles on major sites, and the writing is the equivalent of a 9th grader trying to quickly finish their homework. Yes, they have inserted all the SEO keywords necessary, and yes, it is now search-friendly, but speaking in terms of artistic value, there is none.
I do not know this to be true, but I suspect there are some computer programs which can “write” SEO articles without the intervention of an actual writer. Just input the keywords necessary, maybe give a determination of the topic that should be written about, and the computer kicks out a 500 word article that is damn search-friendly.
All well in good in the continual search for more web traffic, but if they are actually read by another human being, they will induce instant vomiting. They are junk!
Where is the content? Where is the unique voice that differentiates one writer from the next? What we are seeing is a new generation of technical writers who lack the heart and soul that should exist in writing. What we are seeing is less and less concern for grammar, spelling, and content, and more concern with word-choice based on viewership.
Good tips from Cyndi on grammar rules
- Who vs. Whom - Grammar Errors
Confused about who and whom? Have no fear, Hubert will do some investigating for you. But first, he must eat some chocolate meringue pie.
LET’S BE CRYSTAL CLEAR ON MY INTENT
My intent is not to say that there is no place in the world of writing for technical writing. I have nothing against the “how to” articles and the “five easy steps” articles and the “top ten list” articles. They are interesting and there is a time and place for them. I have written them myself, and continue to do SEO articles for pay. My intent, rather, is to say there is no place in the world of writing for shabby writing that concentrates more on views than it does on content.
Writing should be an art form; it is, in fact, a genre of the arts, and it should be treated as such. I know some great technical writers who understand proper grammar and their writing voices shine with each of their works. Conversely, I have known some “journal writers” who couldn’t carry a properly written sentence in a bushel basket, and their writing voices sound like six-year olds on a sugar rush.
Thoughts on writing
- The Writing Workshop: What Makes A Good Article?
What makes a good hub? Start with your definition of what a good hub is and work from there.
More thoughts on writing
- The Writing Workshop: Writers of the World, You Are Appreciated
Writing is an honorable profession, as is music and the arts. Be proud to be a writer;what you write will live on forever.
TAKE PRIDE IN YOUR WORK
And that is the bottom line, now isn’t it? Have enough pride in your work so that when you look at it years from now, you can smile, and nod your head, and feel pride in it.
I have said before, about Steinbeck, that any one of his paragraphs is better than anything I have ever written. Any single paragraph! However, rather than be discouraged about that fact, I gain new strength and determination from it. I may not be the reincarnation of Steinbeck, but I can be the best Bill Holland the world has ever known, and if I accomplish that then I will smile, and nod, and feel pride in my work.
In order for that to happen, I cannot let keywords become the focus of my writing. Once that happens then I have lost control of my own writing, and I will have not only set my own trap, and baited it, but stepped proudly into it, and that just will not do for this boy.
And to those who suggested I could not make it on HubPages with my style of writing, it might be time for you to re-think your suggestion. I have found my voice, and I have found my style. It may not work for all of you, but it works for me, and that, in the final analysis, is all that matters.
2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)