Great content is often fascinating because it seems effortless. It appears to be the collective effect of inspiration, genius, and eureka moments.
There’s an old Italian word for this, sprezzatura, which Seth Godin describes as, “a combination of elan and grace and class.”
It is addictive, in part, because it seems to be the embodiment of natural talent, of a god-given ability, the confluence of some supernatural forces acting together to create a precious gift we must cherish and share all over the web.
Well, most of us have to struggle.
As Hemingway famously said, “The first draft of anything is shit.” He probably knew what he was talking about, since he famously rewrote the ending to A Farewell to Arms some 47 times.
This means that, yes, there’s actually a lot of work and a lot of effort that goes on behind closed doors in order to make something seem effortless, and while sprezzatura might be just another magic illusion that both fascinates and terrifies us, it’s well worth trying to see the hidden contraptions that make this trick so powerful.
1. Don’t Aim for Perfection
To the aspiring blogger, there’s nothing more terrifying than the blank page of a document.
It’s the white screen of death, acting as the prophet of a catastrophic failure which will end with us deciding to delete the article we were working on and throw our laptop against the wall.
There’s this perverse question, “What if the words I use aren’t the right ones?”
All hell breaks loose once you ask yourself that question.
What if your readers don’t understand what your article is all about? What if they hate it? What if they disagree with it?
What if you have yet to do enough research, or you have yet to gain enough mental clarity to write about your topic?
What if your work isn’t original enough?
What if there’s more to do, more to add, more to remove, more to edit, more words to embellish, so your readers fall in love with you?
Go down that rabbit hole and odds are you won’t ever come out.
There’s no such thing as perfection, even though the perfectionist is quite persistent in its pursuit.
To paraphrase the great Renaissance master, Leonardo DaVinci, an article is never completed, only abandoned.
Writing never ends. There’s always more that can be done, but should you?
In the world of business, there’s a term: minimum viable product.
A product with just enough features to satisfy early customers and provide feedback for future product development.
In other words, do your best with what you have. Then let it go. Listen to the feedback. Work smarter and harder on your next post.
Letting go of your need to craft some words into perfection will make you realize this simple fact: a blank page is not to be feared, it is to be adored, for it is the ultimate expression of freedom.
I love blank pages. I can write what I damn well please. I can then edit, remove, and do all sorts of crazy things with my words. They’re not set in stone, and they don’t have to be perfect.
Once you understand that perfection is not possible, you stop trying for perfection, but rather start trying for expression; you want to express yourself in the clearest and most concise manner possible.
2. Sometimes You’re Going to Suck
Once you’ve gotten rid of your fear of perfection, you can allow yourself to suck. That’s great because we all suck from time to time.
As the cliche goes, the master has failed more times than the novice has even started. If you fear failure, you also shut yourself from progress.
Accept the fact that at least some of your content will such. It’s no big deal. Seriously, it’s not.
Failure and rejection are the prices we must pay for the privilege of sharing our words with the world.
3. Show Up. Every Single Day
The more you show up at your desk, the better you become. The more you use the creative muscle, the easier it is to use it.
If you work at it every day, you will get better.
Even if some days you won’t feel like it, even if some days you’d much rather be doing anything else, you have to show up.
4. Write What You’d Most Like to Read
If I had a penny every time a blogger told me they read blogs about different topics than what they blog about, I’d have approximately two dollars…
You need to write the stuff you most like to read.
It’s as simple as that.
Don’t blog about what you think is cool, or what you think will get you women, or make you money, or earn you the respect and admiration of your friends and family.
Blog about what you most enjoy to read.
5. Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously
The word sprezzatura was used to describe a vital quality of a courtier, a sort of exercised carelessness, a certain odd grace that made it seem like there was no way the courtier would ever fail.
Well, if you take yourself or your work too seriously, you fail by default. You’re not laying a gold egg, you’re just typing some words on the digital device of your choice.
If writing a certain blog post feels like a chore, you should maybe stop working on it. At least for a little while.
If you feel the need to procrastinate, ask yourself if there’s something you fear or are angry about.
Maybe you’re trying to write something that you wouldn’t want to, but think it’s going to be popular. Deep down, you feel like selling your soul, and thus you want to avoid doing the work for as long as possible.
Blogging is supposed to be fun. Have some fun!
6. Cultivate a Sense of Curiosity
Children are curious about everything in the world. They are seeing everything for the first time. They are eager to assume the world, to test its limits, impatient to learn, to live, to love, to fall, and to pick themselves up.
You need to cultivate this sense of curiosity in yourself too.
Read everything you can, watch all the documentaries and movies and shows that you want to, listen to podcasts, songs, interviews…
Feed your brain with as much information as possible.
Travel, fall in love, get your heart broken, volunteer.
Stand up for something.
Go out there and do things, expand your universe, and you will grow as a blogger.
7. Don’t Think, Just Write
You write your first draft of any article with your heart. You write that first draft to get it all out.
Don’t think, just punch the damn keys.
There’s plenty of time to edit afterward.
Don’t think about target audiences, about formatting, about finding the perfect images or videos.
Once you have it all down, put it away for a while. Resist the urge to tweak it. Even if you feel like that first draft is crap. Especially then. Wait a few days before you return to it. Then, when you return to it, you’ll be able to see if it’s magic or not.
8. Write for Just One Person
And it’s perfectly acceptable if that person is you.
Thinking about target audiences, tags, keywords, and all that nonsense will take the soul out of any blogger. It’s exhausting.
Write for your ideal reader, the one person who’d love your article, the one person you’d genuinely want to read your words.
Write with just one person in mind. If they’re real, you’re lucky. If not, you can make them up.
Write for just one person, and you will find there are an awful lot of others who care just as deeply about your words.
If you’re not enjoying the success you wish for, think about the ideals behind sprezzatura. The odd grace, the carelessness, the ability to make it seem easy, and the desire to work in the most effective manner possible.
Change your approach.
Change your mindset.
Change your niche.
Change your writing style.
Find your voice.
Develop a bit of carelessness, an odd sort of grace attributed to those who don’t try so hard, but rather enjoy the process.