This Just In: You Don’t Have to Be Passionate to Be a Good Writer
Are you a professional writer or heading in that direction? You’re going to need more than passion to make money at this job long term. Here’s why.
There’s something unfolding in the content writing industry that every new writer ought to know about. Specifically, the push for more content is causing people who love to write to feel a combination of overwhelm and insecurity.
For years, people have heard that to make good money as a writer, they needed to be passionate about their subject. However, technology and changing tastes have pushed writers beyond their comfort zone.
How do new writers establish themselves and compete? What can they do to get in front of the pack? Forget being passionate about your subject. Be passionate about learning.
Professional Content Writing is a Business
Now, if you’re like a lot of writers, then you’re probably thinking that this guy is off his meds. Well, in terms of content marketing and delivery, I understand the outrage. Some people even say that they don’t enjoy reading material by writers who aren’t experts in their fields. The problem is that most people aren’t really interested in your passion or your credentials. They want what they need.
I’ve been following this idea for a while. A few years ago, we saw the introduction of AI into content marketing and its gradual takeover of the article marketing field. I’ve talked to a lot of marketers and writers about how AI content will affect their industry.
Give the People What They Need
Here’s what I get from most as a consensus. Consumers want to get accurate information and they want to trust that the information is correct. A large enough percent of online consumers want that dopamine hit that they get from entertainment, or in our case “info-tainment”.
They want the story, but they also want some personality behind the information. AI can bring you the news, but it hasn’t yet been able to give you the spin. As writers, we still need to do both.
So let me share with you how expanding your range can affect your bottom line as a content writer.
1. You probably won’t be able to write about the joys of skydiving if you’ve never gone skydiving. However, if you interview a skydiving instructor, you can report on the mechanics of the jump and all the safety information necessary to make a successful landing.
2. You may have to do extra homework in order to tackle a topic that you’re not familiar with. Don’t let ignorance be an excuse. The late George Plimpton was famous for his exploration into new topics of interest, which he would then write about. He didn’t need to become an expert to engage his audience in a topic and get them interested in learning more.
3. You’ll be required to know a little more about a subject than your audience. That’s the point of the job we take on as professional content writers.
4. You may find it more difficult to fit into the role of journalist, but if you tell the truth and impart credible and valuable information to your audience, they will come back for more.
5. On the plus side, being open to learning and writing about more subjects (even if it makes you uncomfortable when you have to learn the topic) will bring you more money. It can open up new areas of interest you never knew you had.
You’ll Eventually Replace Passion with Professionalism
I want to point out that the above five points aren’t just my opinion.
I’ve talked to plenty of content providers, including writers, designers, teachers and videographers that I’ve hired. The majority have understood that being open to new ideas, techniques and subjects have made their craft better.
A lot of them understand that starting out in their career, they relied on passion and their personal interests to fuel their drive to succeed. However, to continue to excel in their careers, they were pushed out of their comfort zone.
When In Doubt, Ask an Expert
An interesting point that my marketing teacher brought up is that most teachers aren’t experts. Teachers learn a subject to the best of their ability and the best ones find experts to back up their research. When you’re writing for an audience on a topic, you are basically a teacher. You can also rely on experts to help you understand the topic clearly enough to impart that knowledge on to others.
I’ve written articles on a wide variety of topics in my career. I gravitate to the health and wellness fields or the marketing and promotions arena. Those two areas are where my passions lay. When the need arises to cover a less familiar topic, my process of learning about a topic and digging into the areas readers are interested in takes priority.
How to Learn What You Need to Know to Teach a Subject
The concept of teaching breaks down to a simple principle according to the Australian Professional Teaching Standards:
“Teachers know the content of their subjects and curriculum. They know and understand the fundamental concepts, structure and enquiry processes relevant to programs they teach. “
If you’re skimming this article, please stop right here and read this part. This is the thrust of not only effective teaching in the classroom but content writing as well.
“We know from current research that the teacher’s knowledge of the content is actually not all that important when it comes to effect on student learning (Hattie, Visible Learning for Teachers). What does have a huge effect, however, is the teacher’s ability to know how to teach this content, and so we shall now turn our attention to this.”
Writers are teachers. Their value is in their ability to impart knowledge that others can grasp, understand, and feel comfortable in applying for their own purpose.
It’s not enough to be great at kite making. You need to get others interested in the craft and make them understand what you know. You must first know the content, then know how to teach it.
How content writers approach their work is very important. Consider the scope and sequence of your subject, for example. How much thought did you put into it? To lay the groundwork for knowledge, it’s crucial that we identify key foundation concepts and teach them first.
There is another approach that’s popular. You may discover a recurring theme in the topic and focus on that for clarity. Once you explore that phase, you may then move on to the next section while demonstrating the relationship of the various parts. This works well for complex subjects.
I’ve written articles on gaming from the vantage point of how to accomplish a certain task. I would have one of my sons educate me on the particular points of the topic. When I write about gaming, I get my experts to review it before submission. Am I an expert gamer? Not really. Most people won’t even notice this issue because my job is to get their pressing questions answered in a way that they can appreciate and put into action.
The process goes something like this:
Learn the basics of a subject. For example, Quest VR gaming.
Look for the pressing topics people are asking about on that subject (game play tips and tricks in Star Wars Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge, for example).
Focus on the answers to the questions you’ll be covering. Example, “How do I use the jet pack in Star Wars Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge?”
Research the background of the topic. For example, VR gaming; walkthroughs and gameplay.
When a writer covers a topic, they’ll immerse themselves in the material. Not everyone will do this and there are some topics that will leave us cross-eyed from overwhelm and even boredom.
That’s ok. What is expected of us is to research the material, absorb what we need to tell the story, help our readers and promote interest in a topic that others want to know about.
When we do a good job, we’re like the actors in a western who seem to win every gunfight or able to leap across buildings in an action movie. We train to make the scenes look believable. We inspire and leave our mark.
Heed This Warning:
There’s one big caveat I have that must be addressed with content creation and promotion. Plenty of folks out there feel the need to pretend to be experts. There really is no need to do this.
You don’t have to lie about your income, your sexual prowess or your travels to Timbuktu or your golf handicap. No one really cares. That’s your own personal dopamine rush.
I understand we live in a world where influencers use Photoshop to create fake backgrounds in their IG posts. They feel the need to convince us they are world travelers.
Writers don’t need to do that. We only need to impart wisdom, inspiration, information, or some fun in the people we reach. Give the people what they need in their search and learn something new along the way.
Fortunately, most writers will view this post as good news. That’s because they are already doing this. Chances are, the only ones who will not like this post are the ones who’re looking to game the system, the purists who are afraid of change, or those who are still confused about their role in the writing process. You won’t be challenged and grow as a writer if you only write about your current passion.
Stretch Your Skills and Comfort Zone
You won’t develop new passions resting on your existing interests. Push your boundaries by taking on new topics and learn about them. You don’t have to be an expert to teach what you’ve learned. You just need to be a few steps ahead of the people you’re helping.
If you’re thinking of writing as a career, you’ll need to be prepared for some hard work. You don’t have to be passionate about every assignment to be an excellent writer, but you need to have the skills and the commitment to learning.
That’s where your passion comes in. It’s the fuel that powers your writing engine, and without it, you’ll struggle to produce high-quality content. However, if you’re willing to put in the effort, passion will help you achieve great things. So, are you ready to excel as a professional writer? Let me know in the comments below.
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