The practice of writing takes practice

I came across this article talking about how content strategists are becoming too much about the strategy and not enough about the content. In case you’re not familiar, basically, ranking well in search requires that you demonstrate that other people want your content. This means you need to a) make content people want and b) make sure they can find it. A content strategist is someone, usually in a marketing department, who has skills to do both.

The article was arguing that a lot of the time, content strategy is seen as being the idea person, not the one who actually writes words or creates pictures. 

I think this is a bad idea.

On the first day that I teach a writing class, I always tell my students that they’ll write a lot because writing is like playing basketball. I can stand up and give them 40 lectures about the theory of optimum basketball playing, but if I then take them to the arena and hand them a ball and some opponents, it won’t be pretty. It’s a skill, and skills require practice. 

Making great content is a skill, too. And if you want to get and stay good at it, you need sustained practice. Here’s why:

Practice makes you accountable. When I was in college, I went through DJ training at the campus radio station. At the time, this started with learning all of the FCC rules governing the airwaves and how to not break them. Being generally eggheaded, I was really good at that part. I got the highest score to date at the school on a test on the rules. But, when you put me in the studio and I was actually accountable for getting the technologies to work together to avoid dead air and for not overmodulating and for pronouncing the call letters correctly, it was a disaster. I could come up with rules and plans, but I couldn’t do it when it came right down to it. And I haven’t been in a studio in many years, so if you put me in one now, I’m sure the same thing would happen. 

Practice means understanding. Expertise is developed through experience, so if you want to make content people that people want, you need fresh experience. This is particularly true when the ways and technologies people communicate with are changing rapidly. 

Keeping your hand in actually creating content makes a difference in its effectiveness. So, go write something. And then write more somethings. 

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