Worthy aspirations for content makers

There are two articles I read in 2012 that will hopefully shape my writing here in the coming year. The first, and possibly the only post any aspiring writer needs to read before getting started, is The Most Important Writing Lesson I Ever Learned:

Nobody wants to read your shit.

When you understand that nobody wants to read your shit, your mind becomes powerfully concentrated. You begin to understand that writing/reading is, above all, a transaction. The reader donates his time and attention, which are supremely valuable commodities. In return, you the writer, must give him something worthy of his gift to you.

This ties in very well with Paul Ford’s plea in one of my favorite essays of 2012, 10 Timeframes:

If we are going to ask people, in the form of our products, in the form of the things we make, to spend their heartbeats on us, on our ideas, how can we be sure, far more sure than we are now, that they spend those heartbeats wisely?

So when we tweet, write, post, or whatever we call it when we create content, the first question we should ask ourselves is: “Is this thing I’m sharing worthy of attention?” If it’s a Foursquare checkin or a vaguebook update, it’s probably best left unsaid.

The second article that I hope will shape my writing more is this Steinbeck quote:

It is the duty of the writer to lift up, to extend, to encourage. If the written word has contributed anything at all to our developing species and our half developed culture, it is this: Great writing has been a staff to lean on, a mother to consult, a wisdom to pick up stumbling folly, a strength in weakness and a courage to support sick cowardice. And how any negative or despairing approach can pretend to be literature I do not know. It is true that we are weak and sick and ugly and quarrelsome but if that is all we ever were, we would milleniums ago have disappeared from the face of the earth, and a few remnants of fossilized jaw bones, a few teeth in strata of limestone would be the only mark our species would have left on the earth.

That is certainly an almost impossible standard to live up to. Consistently writing “wisdom to pick up stumbling folly” is something only the most talented writers can do — and even then there are stumbles along the way. Similarly, the Internet makes the thought of staying away from a “negative or despairing approach” sound ludicrous. What will be left of the Internet if we take away angry rants and YouTube comments?

And yet, as unreachable as they appear to be, I think these are good aspirations for anyone who publishes content on the Internet today:

  • Only share that which is worthy of your audience’s attention.
  • Strive to uplift and encourage, not to break down and destroy.

With that in mind, I’ll probably move away from straight-up link-blogging a little bit this year, and rather focus more on trying to connect dots where I think seemingly unrelated things on the web can come together to tell a good story. That’s what excites me, so it’s probably what Obsession Times Voice means for me1.

This isn’t a year-in-review post, but I’d still like to thank you for reading, for tweeting me your feedback, for emailing me. For correcting my spelling errors, for telling me when I’m full of crap, and for encouraging me when I feel like this is too much work for too little return.

I’d like to say a special thanks to those who subscribe to the site via RSS. When I subscribe to a feed, it feels like I’m inviting someone in from the porch to come have a seat inside and have a cup of coffee together. I know RSS space is limited, and that it’s a pretty big commitment to subscribe to someone’s feed. So please know that I take that seriously, and that you are a big part of the reason I aspire to become better at this.

Onward.