Punctuality Rules!

Briiing! How and When to Phone in Your Writing

I know, you’ve been thinking to yourself that it seems like I’ve been phoning it in this last week. You know, not actually showing up and putting forth my best effort, but just going through the motions. And, you’re not totally wrong, either.

For the last week, I’ve been working hard at trying to set up and launch a brand new site, and so you folks, as well as the readers at my personal blog, have been a little neglected.

I’m nothing if not resourceful, though, and thought I would take advantage of this to give you suggestions on how YOU can “phone in” your own work for the rare occasions that life gets in the way. But first, a few caveats:

  •  First, most important point–this is NOT something you should make a habit of doing. Whether you’re writing your own blog or writing for someone else, you should always do your best. If you make a habit of this casual approach, your quality will suffer and your readers will disappear. You can only phone in your writing once in a while, when it’s more important to make sure people know you haven’t disappeared than to risk putting up something mediocre. If you’ve been sick with the flu for a week and you just want to tell people you’re not dead, they’ll be so relieved they’ll forgive a certain amount of shaky sentence structure. If you’re a brand new parent, in the middle of moving to a new home, or just been in a car accident, your readers will give you some leeway. If you’re completely swamped with work for a week, again, people are usually understanding.
  • Don’t make a habit of this. I can’t stress this enough. Your readers (which includes anybody paying you to write) deserve quality work, and their patience is short. Even though you might be able to knock off an article about “10 Ways to Keep Birthday Candles Lit” in 20 minutes, doesn’t mean that that article doesn’t deserve your best work. That’s what makes people come back, and that, ultimately, is on what your readership depends.
  • Phoning it in is NOT Cool. Remember those kids at the back of class in high school? The ones who stretched their legs out as they leaned back in their chairs? The ones who never carried a book, never did an assignment, because they were just too cool for school? Yeah. Don’t do that. Barring exceptional circumstances, it is never fair to your readers to act like you don’t care. If you make a habit of being lazy and casual and too blasé to care, then your readers aren’t going to care, either.

So, how DO you phone it in?

  • The trick to a successful writing assignment is to choose a topic that you know about. One that you can practically write about in your sleep. Are you an expert in programming? Explain the concept of PHP for newbies. Do you work in a bakery? Give tips on frosting a perfect cake. Write about things you already know, things that you explain every day.
  • Write a bulleted list. Assembling a list of points, tips, facts, whatever is always going to be easier and faster than writing cohesive paragraphs that flow from one to another.
  • Keep it short–but not too short. Need it be said that, when trying to get something written and complete as quickly as possible, that keeping it short is useful? But it can’t be TOO short. Unless you are physically constrained so that you are only able to peck out “Sick. Can’t write. More later,” then, even the most time-strapped or distracted writer owes at least a few paragraphs to a devoted readership. After all, you’re a writer–writing a hundred or more words shouldn’t be too taxing.

What other tips have you got?

Oh, and my new site? It’s called Knitting Scholar. It’s filled with knitting book reviews, which may or may not be interest to you, but I WOULD appreciate opinions on the layout and structure if you’d care to come take a look. It’s a magazine WordPress theme and a LOT more work than I expected. Not least of which because I’m not remotely a programmer. I can do HTML and I can sort of kind of decipher basic CSS enough to modify things like colors, but I have no clue about this PHP stuff, so there are a bunch of things that aren’t quite the way I’d like them, but there’s nothing I can do about it (grin). Anyway, that’s what I’ve been working on.

2 thoughts on “Briiing! How and When to Phone in Your Writing

  1. Melissa Donovan

    Aw, it’s ok to phone it in every once in awhile. I’m excited about your new knitting site because I’m getting ready to help my mom launch a knitting blog. Her first subscriptions will be Knitting Scholar and ChappysMom (I’ve already told her about them).

    Melissa Donovan’s last blog post..Don’t Think, Just Write

  2. --Deb Post author

    Yay for your Mom having a knitting blog! No offense to the writing blogs, but knitting blogs are the BEST (grin). (Well, they’re my first blogging love, anyway, so it’s hard to be impartial. Though, of course, I’m trying.)