By not attending the 2016 Nobel Literature Prize awards ceremony at Stockholm, Bob Dylan broke every rule of personal and corporate etiquette and branding. He sent a letter instead. Dylan might shudder at the thought and terminology, but we can use his letter as an object lesson in writing and marketing great content without soul searching.
Dylan named Kipling, Shaw, Thomas Mann, Pearl Buck, Albert Camus, and Hemingway as his teachers in the art of writing. Some lineup, indeed! When we start writing for our blog or corporate site, we hardly aim at a Nobel Prize. Yet we should always aim at these authors’ stature.
If someone had ever told me that I had the slightest chance of winning the Nobel Prize, I would have to think that I'd have about the same odds as standing on the moon. - Bob Dylan
Nobel Prize aside, we would also be kicking off on the wrong foot if we aim at top search engine rankings. Search ranking criteria, for their own sake, usually produce the sort of ephemera that the web has more than enough of already.
In writing content, let us ask ourselves simple questions on how to structure the text, make it readable and engaging: not viral, but meaningful. Let us seek the best form and narrative manner to convey it to an audience eager to be grabbed rather than to trudge through yet another topic hyped as trending.
I began to think about William Shakespeare, the great literary figure. I would reckon he thought of himself as a dramatist. The thought that he was writing literature couldn't have entered his head. His words were written for the stage. Meant to be spoken not read. - Bob Dylan
The same applies to our written content. Nobody expects it to be literature. But we can turn it into literature – so long as we do not desperately try to make it a bestseller. Simply thinking of what readers need, how to address their concerns and questions, and how to write accordingly leads us a good part of the way to meaningful content.
Whether it will be thought provoking is another thing. Readers can easily recognize meaningful content as they wade through an online space flooded by over optimized SEO texts.
When he was writing Hamlet, I'm sure he was thinking about a lot of different things: "Who're the right actors for these roles?" "How should this be staged?" "Do I really want to set this in Denmark?" His creative vision and ambitions were no doubt at the forefront of his mind, but there were also more mundane matters to consider and deal with. - Bob Dylan
We too often daydream of our content storming the world, with or without SEO. Okay – we must make it as attractive and well written as we can. But if we set off just to fill space and win transient glory, we are best advised to take a break. We should communicate an idea, a solution, and a vision, all serving a well defined purpose. The prize at the end of the road is big enough to look after itself.
When I started writing songs as a teenager, and even as I started to achieve some renown for my abilities, my aspirations for these songs only went so far. I thought they could be heard in coffee houses or bars, maybe later in places like Carnegie Hall, the London Palladium. - Bob Dylan
Fine: we should seek recognition. But not at any price. And not at the expense of the quality that is becoming so rare in both personal and corporate blogs. As the saying goes, less is more. Remember that content writing and content marketing are different fields. Many mediocre Shakespeares have failed to outlive their contemporaries, however good their mercantile sense might have been.
If I was really dreaming big, maybe I could imagine getting to make a record and then hearing my songs on the radio. That was really the big prize in my mind. Making records and hearing your songs on the radio meant that you were reaching a big audience and that you might get to keep doing what you had set out to do. - Bob Dylan
There is a rule in rhetoric: address the person at the back and those at the front will also hear you. For content writing and marketing, we can paraphrase it to: address a tiny group and all others will also hear you.
But there's one thing I must say. As a performer I've played for 50,000 people and I've played for 50 people and I can tell you that it is harder to play for 50 people. 50,000 people have a singular persona, not so with 50. Each person has an individual, separate identity, a world unto themselves. They can perceive things more clearly. - Bob Dylan
When we see our content this way, we have a good chance of perfecting the texts we create and producing something valuable. Writers have known this for centuries.
But, like Shakespeare, I too am often occupied with the pursuit of my creative endeavors and dealing with all aspects of life's mundane matters. "Who are the best musicians for these songs?" "Am I recording in the right studio?" "Is this song in the right key?" Some things never change, even in 400 years. - Bob Dylan
In Shakespeare’s day writing for the printed page or the stage probably held greater intrinsic worth. Few produced it; it was harder to disseminate it across a nation, let alone the world. Shakespeare’s contemporaries merely considered his writing entertaining and popular. Neither he nor they could have imagined it lasting centuries.
Not once have I ever had the time to ask myself, "Are my songs literature?" - Bob Dylan
We stand a greater chance of writing lasting content if we simply create something we consider worthy by our own standards. Let us write frankly, clearly, and naturally and leave our readers to decide if we create value.
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