Ever since I entered the blogging and freelancing world, I keep hearing the terms authentic, original, unique, impostor syndrome being thrown around a lot. The first three terms are fairly similar in meaning, the last being that of lacking the quality of the first three.
I get it. I think those of us who’re in a position to create content regularly have, at some point, felt like an imposter. We struggle to create content that people would want to read, content useful to them. But no matter what we think of writing, most of it, if not all, have been written already by someone out there, if not by many.
In other words, there is hardly anything left that has not yet been said.
Anything and everything you can think of has been thought of by someone else.
Many times over.
So, what does it mean for us content creators? Are we doomed to become another mediocre voice out there, shouting in the abyss of content overload, to be heard by none?
Most of us are, of course, overreacting a bit when we assume we’re all imposters.
After all, even our blogging and content heroes like Jon Morrow or Benjamin Hardy or Pat Flynn or Melyssa Griffin or Amy Porterfield are not above this. Everything they’re saying has been said already. So, what makes them stand out from the crowd?
It’s this: while the topic of the content may not be original or even the content itself, the way they deliver their message is unique.
In other words, these are authentic people delivering authentic content, by writing only what they know. Essentially, by being true to themselves, they are delivering a message that has not been said before by anyone else.
Last December I joined Medium and started to write on various publications very seriously.
The most read and most popular story in the 6 months since then has been this: 5 Writing Tips from Someone Learning to Write.
To date, this article has been seen by 1.4K people, read by 44% of that, and liked (clapped) by 74 of them for a total of 667.
I know compared to many popular Medium writers this isn’t much of a statistic. But if you look at how long I’ve been on Medium, the frequency of my writing (only a handful of articles per month), and the fact that I’m a newbie when it comes to content creation, then this is actually a pretty good number!
But look at the topic! 5 Writing Tips… like, seriously? Out of all the articles I have ever written, I’d expect this to be the least popular considering Medium is full of some very similar articles written by those who are a lot more experienced than I am.
The only thing I can think of is this: I wrote from the heart, taking from my own experiences as a newbie writer. And so, while the topic is far from original, the things I said were most definitely authentic.
And you know what? Readers are smart. They can always tell.
So, then, you may ask, what about all the other articles that I’ve written? Are those not from the heart?
Well, they are! I suppose the topic itself being so popular helped as well in terms of gaining traction.
Does that mean you should always only seek out popular topics? Yes, and no. The popularity of a certain topic is usually a good sign of the readers’ pain points. If you think from that angle and truly wish to help your target audience, then yes, you should definitely research the kind of things they’re most likely to pay attention to.
But that doesn’t mean you write about popular topics only. Ultimately, what you write about is something you need to decide based on the kind of writer you wish to be known as. And you must also accept the fact that not everything you write is going to go viral. If one of your articles goes viral, you’re already several steps ahead of your peers. (Viral content is rare!)
With all that said, let’s now look at what you can do to be as authentic as possible without feeling like an imposter:
1. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
So, you sit down to write and you start brainstorming topics. Don’t bother thinking up an “original” topic. In fact, you should look for and seek out popular topics in your niche because they’re a direct indicator of how in-demand they are. And You want to write about those in-demand topics, not because you want the maximum number of people clicking on your article and reading your content (well, not only!), but because you have something meaningful to add to the voices, and you know your own, unique view will be helpful to your readers.
2. Write What You Know
And if what you know is what everyone else out there knows, then so be it. Again, don’t sweat the small stuff. But when I say “write what you know”, I don’t mean you cannot go and learn more. Definitely, do your research and learn as much as you can about a topic before you start writing. Learning is an essential part of being a content creator. When I wrote the Medium article (The 5 Writing Tips one), I had already been researching ways to improve my writing. Adding what I had learned from others to my own experiences as a newbie student of writing, I was able to craft an article that was as authentic as it gets.
Did I write anything no one had written yet? Nope, definitely not. So what made it authentic? It’s my unique voice and the way only I can deliver.
3. Train Yourself to be Different
Authentic doesn’t mean coming up with never-before-told ideas. It simply means having something unique to add to what’s already been said. If it is unique content, great. But most likely, that wouldn’t be the case. However, you can approach authenticity by the way you deliver. How you tell a story (or write a how-to or listicle post) shows something about your personality, your experiences, your way of looking at the world. You’re already different, my friend! All you need to do is bring it out into your content.
Writing, creating content, blogging — these are skills that require hard work and training and consistent sharpening. Bringing out your unique characteristics as a writer or blogger or content creator needs consistent work. You cannot allow yourself to be dulled. Every time you sit down to write, approach writing from a place only you know of. Do this every single time, and only by doing so consistently, you will be able to develop your own, unique voice.
4. Research. Research. Research.
This all sounds good, but what if you can’t figure out what makes you authentic? What if you don’t know how you even look at the world? How are you to deliver authentic content then? Well, in order to understand ourselves, sometimes we need to understand others.
The reason we study, the reason we read what others have written, is not only to learn about a specific topic, but it is also to learn about ourselves.
Think about it. We read different opinions by different people all the time. Turn on the TV to listen to a piece of news, and based on which channel you’re on, the same story can be heard being told in different ways. All these unique voices give shape to our own unique voice.
If you’re a newbie content creator, it’s imperative that you do your due diligence, and research the heck out of whatever you’re writing about. This will help you shape your own opinion and your own unique style of delivery.
5. Be Mindful and Intentional about Reading as well as Writing
I keep stressing on delivery. For a writer, this delivery is your style. How you craft your prose, how you structure your content, how you use transitions in your articles and stories… these are all stylistic elements of your method of delivery. Everything I’ve said up until now, requires mindfulness and intentional practice. Whenever you sit down to research a topic, when you read a book, when you write an article, you need to be mindful of what it is you’re reading or writing.
It is easy to get sidetracked, we live in a world full of distractions after all. So, unless you can train yourself to be mindful and intentional in your pursuits, you will never get out of the generic mill of content creators. There are plenty of them out there, let’s do better!
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