You know the difference between good content, and not-so-good.
Good content… the kind you get lost reading… losing hours to the task until you look up and realize the sun is drawing golden lines across your face through a westward window.
Not-so-good… the kind you give up reading less than a sentence in.
So, what’s the difference? And why do you know it implicitly (whether you have an English degree, or not)?
Difference #1: Good content has a heart.
It’s not interested in pushing its agenda. It’s connected to something. Purpose? Desire? Meaning? Inspiration? Excitement? Joy? Love?
Whatever it is, good content flows because it’s connected to that part of life that flows.
Only the thinking mind can stop this flow, and when it does, content becomes choppy, stormy, confusing, obfuscated.
If you’re a writer, you’ve had moments like this.
You start as so many of us do—with a goal. And the goal may be harmless, unless it’s disconnected from your heart and desires.
For instance, your boss needs that report by four. In all likelihood, this is not an intrinsically motivated task. It’s a survival-motivated task, so the limbic brain is immediately involved, hijacking your nervous system and altering the steady flow of your heart rhythms.
When this happens, your brain and heart go out of coherence. What is coherence? A rhythmic, mutually-supportive connection between them that can be measured physiologically.
Pause and consider this. When was the last time you were stressed or afraid? Perhaps you were unsure whether your boss would fire you, your best friend would dump you, or your car engine would explode on a road trip.
How did you feel in those moments? Most likely, hijacked. Your heart, if you’re in touch with it, may be desperately trying to hang on while your brain powers through, sending sparks and smoke from its gears.
Now, the mind is not the enemy. Like the heart, it’s an ally. But as a leader, it cannot operate without the heart’s fuel.
I don’t need to tell you how to use thought… but how often can you sink into the skin you were born in, and allow the feelings of your heart to lead you where you want to go?
Great writers are heart-led, and over time, as money gets involved or critical publishers, agents or editors have their say… can tend to fall to the leadership of the mind, pushing their heart’s wisdom to the back-burner. After all, all this criticism and pressure must mean others know better, right?
But the mind divided from the heart grows weary and stale. The inspiration that led you to sit down in front of your computer, nest your toes underneath you and type with focus and fervency…
That came from a partnership between heart and mind.
Difference #2: Good Content is Alive
There is an energy coursing through all of life. Some might call it God. I just call it life. And, really, do we need to make it so complicated?
This energy is intelligent, vibrant, and beautiful… and your content needs it. Badly.
Good writing cannot survived while you’re tied up in a dim office, the glare of your screen turning your eyes into the first cakey rivers through springtime’s red rock mountains.
Life needs you to flow, yet so many of us have forgotten how.
We live in quiet order, repeating the same behaviors day in and day out while turning away from the deep, desperate pulse of our body’s guidance that is begging us to go outside, run for thirty minutes, drink two glasses of water, or breathe deeply and steadily for ten minutes away from your desk…
Your body is where aliveness begins, and the best writers remain intimately connected to the pulse and communication their body is constantly delivering.
But this is trained out of us from an early age.
“Sit still,” “be quiet,” “sit down and shut up.”
The messages begin as we’re organized into classrooms away from the pulse of life, into the sterile structures of a dead world.
We’re trained to steady our focus on this dead world until the deadness spreads from the screens and chalkboards into the cells inside our body.
For some, the quiver of life is too loud and insistent, and even in these classrooms it persists. For others, especially those who enter this sterile world too early… it permeates their entire being and can feel impossible to wrest themselves from.
Life is the most abundant force on earth. Even the soil is alive. It is only in recent centuries that we have piled a dead world upon itself, into towers from which we gaze upon a world we are killing with chemicals and toxic fertilizers. But the greatest cost is the dimming force of life within us.
Good content comes from writers who throw off this deathy-ness. Who leap into life and chase the deepest presence of it. The loamiest forests, the clearest waters.
The greatest among us will leave these places better than they found them, spreading more life back into the world, or bringing back this life in the form of their words to inspire and reignite that life in the ones they share it with.
Difference #3: They’re Not Afraid of the Unknown
When you sit down to write, not knowing can be the best place to come from.
Yet so many of us are terrified not to “know.” Not to have that mental certainty.
And perhaps for some, that is wise. Mental certainty, especially when paired with the warmth of passion, purpose or joy, can explode worlds and minds.
Except that mental certainty will not always be there. It can sometimes be discovered along the way, but how would you know if you were not willing to discover?
Take the seed of an idea and venture into the wilderness of your imagination. Plant it in the magic soil of your laptop’s word processor, or on the lined pages of a notebook.
Let your words flow whether you “know” where they’re heading or not. In fact, it’s best you don’t know. It’s best you raise your lantern and follow them dutifully, watching their electric rivers glow in the soil as they travel from the single seed you planted.
Just a single seed. One small idea, planted in your imagination can erupt into bioluminescent rivers of insight leading to glimmering pastures of exploding creativity and beauty.
Follow your ideas. Venture into the unknown. Bring a lantern. Quiet your fear, and keep following. Be courageous. Keep going.