And the piece where I rail against 'Digital Writing'
This is, of course, an absolute banger, and nor just because you were kind enough to link to an essay of mine in there.
It all comes down to being the change you want to see, which is the biggest cliche in the book, but like all truisms it is fundamentally, importantly true in a way that many aren’t willing to accept. Because it demands action and change from them.
But some of us are dropping the ‘digital’ expectations of digital writers and are reverting to ‘cooking from scratch’, so to speak.
Hopefully some people will read this piece of yours and be inspired to do likewise.
At the end of this piece I had my arms raised up and thought "I'd follow Craig into war!" Not that I want that to happen but an indication of how i was apparently altered by your enthusiasm and points.
I have some thoughts.
A lot of what you are describing as Digital Writing I would describe as putting fishing hooks with colorful lures into the Web: shiny, colorful and designed to pull you out of the river and drag you somewhere else. Maybe Fishing Hook Writing or Anger-Inducing Writing or Fear-Inducing Writing are better terms. Or Copywriting, because that's the source of all of this. Copywriting is writing but it's not Writing.
I am not above experimenting with these techniques! Occasionally I do! And after almost 15 years on Twitter I do feel like I've gotten good at communicating a simple concept in as few words as possible. But it's just one style.
IMHO, if you want to appeal to smart, thoughtful readers then good longform writing is the key. A good writer can spool out longer, more descriptive sentences to convey detail and nuance and that's not an easy task. And I fully agree, Tweets are awful for conveying nuance. In fact, you have to be quite direct and structured, in the use of threads, etc. to try to come close. Soon most of that will be done by AI if it isn't already being done.
And if you don't really care who reads you then by all means, write as you will. There's a chance that people will find you and groove on what you are reading or else be moved enough in some way to respond. Tell your friends, if nothing else. And that's perfectly fine!
But I will always err on trying to be clear when I write when I want other people to read it, especially if I know people will don't speak English as their first language will read it. That's my bias.
And Craig, I didn't find this post difficult to read at all, FWIW.
To think about 24/7. Letting myself go down the path where I write in the “digital” way will be a let down. I love this piece. Thanks for sharing with us all.
An amazing complementary video from Sarah Z on how potentially Netflix and binge culture is to blame for this Dracula Writing project. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9RgI1yH2_ys&ab_channel=SarahZ
Makes sense, yes
Great comments - yeah, there’s a place for copywriting of course. It’s just that this dumb it down consensus has been making me feel like an idiot (or a snob) for thinking otherwise.
It’s writing by numbers. But I agree that those formulas or structures can be a string to your bow, if used sparingly and with skill.
I think of all of us who read Craig’s piece and shouted “yes!!”, and think we can’t be the only ones.
I’ve written about this before- that advice to write for Grade 8. It’s so annoying!! I’m not in Grade 8, so why should I imagine my audience is? I hope they aren’t. That would be weird...
Microwave digital pies - love it :)
The dumb it down advice is given like it’s a given. And therefore it becomes a given.
Absolutely love this piece, Craig! Years ago, I gave up writing on my blog because whereas I was writing more personal, long-form content, people were drifting away to the BuzzFeed and Upworthy clickbait BS.
Plus, I had recently become a dad, so there was that too... This piece speaks so much to me of then, and me of now. Give me thoughtful, long-form, full sentences and hidden Easter eggs where I need to do some digging every day of the week.
It's why I prefer the smell of a new book's first page over the dim glare of an eReader - some things were never meant to be "improved".
All I can say is YES. You nailed it, brilliantly written.
Once I freed myself from content cabal, the real work has started, and now the closest goal is to see in print all the odd and ‘unnecessary’ words and sentences I wrote over past year.
Thank you for putting into words something that has been bothering me too. It feels good to have a new way to see the whole phenomenon. There is a difference between using big, beautiful words because we have a love affair with them and using them to try to impress. Maybe the intention behind longer form, more complex writing is the reason to not abandon it? Great piece and love your read aloud!
Nicely done. When I was Medium (since left that boat), article after article floated by on my feed about the necessity of keeping it super simple without long paragraphs and certainly no long sentences that a reader of tweets might have to parse.
I'm one of these people that has found this dumb-down (maybe it's dump down) effect to be emblematic of the age but something I've never been on board with.
I think readers are smart. And if your writing or my my writing or the writing of many others here on Substack that I've encountered and enjoyed in my 5 weeks here is not their thing, well... that's okay; there's plenty of internet material to "consume." No worries.
And I agree with Thomas (below, above, not sure where this will land and I haven't learned to tag if that's even possible) that it does come down to being the change you want to see. I hope to find other like-minded authors here. Thanks for the article.
This is everything I've been thinking. Everything I've been feeling for quite some time. I love to challenge myself. Enjoy reading books that are too difficult to me, and I push my own young children to do the same.
And then, someone who is not a writer starts lecturing me on how I should write to gain more followers. And, no. It's too much. If the highest quality of your education is the latest self help book, I am afraid, dear sir, that I can not take you seriously.
But this. It encourages me to press on. To aim for higher and better. And, if, perhaps, I build my skill to the level that some are captivated and want to climb with me, wonderful.
But no, I can not remain on the lowest level for them. Because I have dignity.
Wish I had read this and adopted this mentality before I signed up for 'Digital Writer's' course. Would have saved me $500!
Great article! We need more original thinking online and the best way to get more of it is to creating things you want to see in the world based on your own experience and thoughts.