Sometimes a topic just isn’t working – you can tell when you’re writing it, and you can tell when you’re reading it. Maybe the humor is forced, tired, or rote. Maybe the blogger didn’t go into the same level of interesting side detail that he usually does, or perhaps her topic looks like she fell back on a safe and reliable piece, rather than going somewhere new like her last eight. Whatever the reason, not every topic is created equal, and sometimes a post just isn’t up to anything like your usual standards.
There are a lot of reasons, most of them hard to pin down, for why a post might not be making the cut. Perhaps the details are just too sparse to get ahold of, or the interview that the post is based on just went poorly and the subject has almost no personality to do a piece on, or maybe it’s just mind-numbingly dull to the writer and he can’t work up any enthusiasm for it. These things happen, not necessarily to every writer, but they are likely to happen to most.
So the question becomes, how do you deal with a bad topic?
The professional answer might be to “chin up and bear through it, deliver what you were hired to write and just try harder next time.” For some of us, this is acceptable and even good practice. After all, not every assignment can be gravy; sometimes you just have to bite the bullet.
However, this article aims to argue that this is not always or even often the case, and writers need to learn when to let a topic go and move on to something else more frequently.
How Does This Work?
After all, professional bloggers in particular are hired to write about specific subjects — how can they get away with writing about something else or just dropping a topic?
It has to be said, the option to leave a post behind isn’t always there. Sometimes an assignment is too specific, and one has to go through with it. However, this is actually very rarely the case. An engaging blog is about the writer’s personality, not necessarily the content (although the content is how this persona is put forward). Thus if a particular topic or, more importantly, a particular approach to a topic is not working for a writer, then a change is needed in either small or great degree to allow the writer to work their particular magic.
The first step in letting go of an article is to let go of your initial approach to it. It may be that the subject itself actually isn’t all that bad, just that the initial or usual way of approaching it isn’t working out so well. Take that interview example: Say our mysterious blogger is an interviewing genius, and has had some exceptional success with interview-driven blog posts so far. However, the latest interviewee, an artist in this case, is just dreadful. Their work is exciting, their reputation amazing, but in person or in print they’re as dull as a brick! The blogger can’t get their normal approach to work.
Alright, another approach is warranted. So instead of using the actual interview, our blogger makes one up. This isn’t to say they make up the actual interview with the artist, which would be illegal and wrong. Instead, they interview the person’s art itself. They raise questions they have, and look at what answers the art itself provides.
This is a bit of an esoteric example, but it illustrates the key point — if you’re having trouble doing something, try approaching it from a different angle. Languages are flexible, with shades of meaning and cultural variations that can surprise you. Experiment a bit and see if a new method opens new successes.
Genuinely Drop It
Some topics, however, just don’t work. It happens, be it writer’s block or just a lack of information.
The solution here is be honest. If you are your own boss, just accept that you tried and it’s time to write something else. Writers of fiction do it all the time; bloggers should be no different.
If you’re writing for an organization that expects you to cover certain topics, be up front as early as possible and go to your bosses with an explanation in detail why the topic isn’t working, and why you think posting it would be detrimental rather than helpful. To make the process easier, go with alternative ideas — already written out or at least drafted in proposal form — so they can see you know what you’re talking about and have the content ready.
Why Letting Go is Good
Burnout is a very real phenomenon among bloggers. People can sense when a writer hasn’t put their heart and soul into a piece, and they can tell when something was forced out of their keyboard at gunpoint. Consistently forcing oneself to write articles that wear on them will wear a writer down and diminish their blogging talents. So for the sake of your creativity and excellence, make sure that you know when an article needs either a different approach, or a graceful decline.