Words on a Page Writings about writing

On the word 'content'

Content!

Unlike some writers I know and read, I don’t obsess about every little detail. I don’t obsess about every word. I don’t lose sleep over every term. I don’t stress about whether or not that sentence or paragraph is perfect (whatever that means).

I doubt that makes me unique among writers, but I really don’t sweat the small stuff.

There is, however, one word I’m struggling with. It’s one I’ve been struggling with for a while now. That word? Content. I’m definitely not a fan of that word. I admit, though, that I’m as guilty of referring to what I find on the web as content as the next person.

That has to stop.

Why?

Content has the connotation of something that’s quickly and cheaply made. Of something that’s mass produced, generic, homogeneous.

Content implies something without a distinct voice. Something that’s not well crafted. Something that tries to draw eyeballs instead of helping and informing.

Content implies something, to paraphrase Harlan Ellison, that bursts into flame and turns to ash shortly after it’s published. Content is something that you read or view and then throw away. Content is something to be forgotten as quickly as it was read.

When I started to seriously put words to paper in the 1980s, I never thought about writing content. I wrote articles. I wrote essays. I wrote reviews. I even took stabs at writing short stories. I knew that most of what I wrote (and would write in the coming months and years) wasn’t for the ages. But the work I produced had more than just immediate import or impact. To be honest, I still get positive feedback on some of the articles and essays I wrote in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

I don’t think I’d still be getting a good response to what I’ve written if I’d focused on churning out content. That would have been an easy way to collect published credits and maybe make a bit of money, but it wouldn’t have been satisfying. I doubt I would have grown as a writer by banging out content.

From this date forward, I’m banishing the term content from my writing (unless it’s in the pejorative). And you can slap me if you find that term in my work from today onward.

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