In honor of Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming film adaptation of what truly may be the perfect American novel, The Great Gatsby, let’s use the great Ouija board that is the Internet to resurrect F. Scott Fitzgerald and see what words of wisdom he may have for us as content writers. Sure, his life may not have been the best source for dating (let alone drinking) advice, but undeniably, the man could write. Here’s what Scott has to say about his craft:
1. “You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say.”
Never forget that the substance comes first. It’s the content of “content,” if I may. Writing things on commission is a workaday reality for many of us, but you always must find a way of expressing something authentic about whatever topic you’re given (even if you’re not truly an expert).
2. “To write it, it took three months; to conceive it three minutes; to collect the data in it all my life.”
Okay, so the timeframe is significantly sped up on the Web. Addressing each of his points in personal terms: I wish I could reliably come up with my blogging ideas in three minutes; I usually take less than three hours in the writing; and I do think there is an irreducible truth in that last part. Wisdom comes with experience, and everything I’ve ever learned or done is a potential wellspring for my writing.
3. “An author ought to write for the youth of his own generation, the critics of the next, and the schoolmaster of ever afterwards.”
Obviously, we are rarely aiming to write the Great American Novel the way Scott did, let alone something that will be on every high school curriculum in America for a century after we write it. Still, when crafting content for the short-attention-span Internet, it’s still good to take a moment and think: does this offer lasting value? If someone stumbles upon this page in five years, is there any chance they’ll care?
4. “Personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures.”
Personality is one of the most important and least explicable facets of writing. It’s an alchemy that takes place between you, your keyboard, and your audience. I like Fitzgerald’s definition very much. A good stylist does maintain a certain internal consistency in her work and the way it’s presented. Today we might call this “branding.”
5. “Some men have a necessity to be mean, as if they were exercising a faculty which they had to partially neglect since early childhood.”
This law of nature explains a lot of the blog commenters you’ll encounter.
6. “Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.”
This is good advice! 😉
Even if you don’t aspire to the lyricism and beauty of Fitzgerald, but to a more transparent and workmanlike prose a la Hemingway, I hope these quotes have made you think a little differently about what we do. Don’t take it from me, take it from the ultimate wordsmith: writing matters.
This Content is Currency post is from Aniya Wells, a freelance writer and blogger whose writing interests are decidedly consumer-focused. In an age in which consumers have access to unprecedented amounts of information, Aniya hopes to help her readers decode this information to make better decisions about online degree programs, personal finance, parenting, health, and more. She can be reached at email@example.com.