I’ve been diving in to how I go about writing blog posts today. I know that what I write about stems from various top-level interests I have, like psychology, self-development, and so on. I like to see which category I’m writing in, from where I’m drawing my knowledge, and all that sort of thing – that is essentially what I mean when I say top-down. A top-down approach starts at the higher orders, the overarching (or underpinning) theory so to speak, that we’re using in our approach. When I write about self-esteem, for example, I’m aware that my psychology higher order is in play, which focuses who I reference, how I approach the topic, and even how I write and think. Now, I’m thinking – now that I’ve realized this previously non-conscious element in my writing – that perhaps this is at times a little selfish. I’m writing from a ‘here’s some information’ standpoint without even meaning it. A lot of the time I’m writing very personally as well, often from opinions and stories – which have their place, but as stand-alone elements haven’t much grit – inadvertently leaving out the reader in a way. Sure, their involvement is implicit (they’re the reader, after all) but there’s an imbalance.
The counter to this, then, is a bottom-up approach to writing. Rather than going from the general to the particular, things are flipped on their head. In this instance, I’d be thinking first and foremost “what is the reader able to take away from this?” I wouldn’t just leave it as implicitly there is a reader, and there is information, and they can do as they please because that misses something. In terms of creating engaging and compelling content, yes it’s missing the mark, but over and above all that: you’re putting yourself above the reader. Rather, I’ve been putting myself above the reader (since we’re talking about me here, and perhaps you if you can relate here). I’m not concerned in these bottom-up instances how this particular piece slots in to my overarching schema (despite it doing so) or using them to inform how I talk to you (although they do) because I’m focused on you as the reader, not me as the writer.
Now, as with any split – it’s got a slight irrelevance. Any side of a coin is just that, a side of a coin, and I’m not saying that one approach trumps another. An awareness, though, of which angle you’re taking – and whether this is appropriate for your message and so on – might make all the difference to your writing and overall engagement. What it all comes down to for me is the focus on why you’re writing: for yourself, or your reader? Now, these are inseparable parts of a whole, but your subjective spin on it will bias things and change how you present yourself. Am I writing just to write, or to be heard? My end goal should have some sway over how I approach this I reckon. Ultimately, all this pondering might have little impact on how I actually write – but perhaps it will impact how I market my writing, how I advertise blog posts, and so on. Being aware of what your article’s ‘take-away’ is can be a great way to condense a blog post to a simple graphic or short-hand description and show potential readers what to expect from reading, and provide them with some motivation for clicking through to your article.
Another insight I’ve had from examining my writing in this way is that when I go top-down, I constrain my thinking quite a bit which – when you’re not intentionally doing this, say to focus in on something very particular – can drastically limit your scope of awareness. When I’m writing with a psychological mind-set, for example, I tend to be in that mind-set. While it isn’t a bad thing, it stops me making the conceptual leaps I might otherwise make, or really grounding my thinking. I might be able to overlap, say, in to some more spiritual notions (because I’m heavily aware of the overlap between these topics anyway) but I’m less likely to see how this applies to blogging, or perhaps marketing, or whichever insight may be evading me because I’m blinkering myself. When I start with the unfiltered crux of things, I find I can then make all these links back to psychology, or personal development, or digital marketing without the bias that would have been created had I started by thinking through one of these lenses.
I hope this has made sense to you and perhaps given you a new introspective angle to take on your writing, and how it might come across from the other side of the screen (that’s your take-away, see?) as well as giving you a sort of framework to assess your writing in this way. You can also expect a little more structure from me as we go forward, as I’ll hopefully be keeping this in mind and really putting the work in to my posts – because they’re for you, and I want you to enjoy them and be able to genuinely get something out of it. So, thanks for reading. This is a small blog right now, with a tiny following, but I appreciate everyone who stumbles across my writing (and especially the few of you who care to like, or comment, or engage in any way – it’s all noted) so I hope I am able to provide you with worthwhile content as we go forward and find out where this blog is really going.