In May of 2013 I wrote a blog post called, The Engagement Age. (You can read the original post here.)
In that post, which I hope you’ll take a minute to read, I talked a little bit about one of the three pieces of “valuable writing.”
Valuable writing is a concept I teach in my creative writing classes, and not just in my Legacy of Words classes (which is where I first applied the idea of VALUE in writing) but also in my fiction classes where I use the valuable writing model (Inform, Engage, Enlighten) as one of the tools in the writer’s tool kit when revising a piece.
Value Illuminates Theme
When adding value to a short story or novel or whatever it is I am writing, I am asking myself, with every line of revised text, how can I deepen the reader’s experience. What can I do to clarify, not necessarily the events of the story, but the MEANING of it.
Now, this can be tricky with fiction. Sometimes I’m not even completely sure what a story might actually MEAN, and there is, of course, always leeway given to the individual reader’s highly-specific and completely personal reading of the text. Some themes are intentional, in other words, and some just…happen.
With non-fiction (including personal essays or writing for the blog or other outlets) there is a bit more focus on pulling a specific meaning to the forefront. In that sense, the ways to bring value to a non-fiction work may be a bit more obvious.
“Obvious” isn’t always “easier”.
Take this blog, for instance. Engagement doesn’t always come easy. The blogging gurus will tell me that to get a higher level of engagement, I should write a certain kind of headline, structure the post in a certain way, limit my words, keep sentences short, and end with a question.
I know they are right. And I try to walk a line between the “blogging formula” and retaining my own unique voice.
But, isn’t that the line we all walk when we write? We want to retain the unique bits that make our writing our own, but what’s the use in writing it if no one else will ever “get it”?
Ultimately, that’s the question the writer is struggling with as they work through drafts and revisions and edits: how do these lines and dots on a page convey the vision I have for this work?
Why Does It Matter?
In our creative works, the value of engagement is obvious: the more engaged, active, invested, and interested a reader is in the work, the more likely they are to finish reading. To turn the page. To take the journey.
When it comes to a blog, the value of engagement is a little different.
I would say there are three specific benefits of engagement:
- Comments, social media shares, and other ways of interacting in response to a blog post allows the writer to know he (or she) is not speaking to an empty room. (Sometimes, writing a blog feels a bit like performing flawless rock ballads in the shower: fine enough, but if no one hears, the performance is wasted.)
- Interacting with the content and the writer helps the blog writer know if he is on the right track, if he’s being clear, and if there are other perspectives to consider in the future. (This is why I always say, “Let’s talk about that! Tell me what you think…”)
- Engaging a blogger and the other folks who comment on a blog is good for the READER as well. (So good, I often assign interacting on a blog or in an online forum to writers who are having trouble with addressing the “creative community” aspects of maintaining a creative rhythm.)
What do you think? Are there reasons you avoid making comments or sharing a blog post? Have you found “engaging” in a blog or other online forum to be of benefit ever? If so, share your story below. Maybe someone else will benefit…