Keepin’ it Real: Fresh Writing for Common Topics
When writing for a blog, oftentimes you will find yourself writing about topics that many other people have covered before. A quick Google search is bound to pull up countless blogs and articles that discuss the same topics in slightly varying ways. It can be frustrating as a writer to find a fresh way of approaching a topic that so many other writers have covered, but don’t be discouraged – you can still write a unique, original and new piece simply because it’s coming from you.
With so much of the same information floating around, an easy trap to fall into while researching a topic is to simply pull content from someone else’s work to use in yours. This is even more tempting in the Internet Age, when so much information is readily available at our fingertips. While titles and topics cannot be copyrighted, content belongs to the author and is protected. As has always been the case, you cannot use someone else’s content and call it your own. Any content you pull from outside sources must be properly cited and attributed to the original author.
Take, for example, Copyblogger writer Amy Harrison’s article on the use of fear in advertising. She wasn’t the first blogger to outline her thoughts on fear as a motivation for consumption and she certainly won’t be the last, but she chose to use that to her advantage. She broke down her argument into distinct parts and backed up her claims with quotes from experts who studied this phenomenon to produce an excellent example of a well-researched and expertly executed post. Each quote was set off either on its own line or within quotations and was preceded or followed by the name of the original author. If instead she had taken those quotes, woven them into a narrative post and failed to mention the experts’ names or the source of the quotes, she would have been violating intellectual property laws.
So, this is not only an ethical issue, but a legal one as well. Intellectual property refers to any creative work or invention such as a manuscript, song, photo or video and is protected under intellectual property law, which grants exclusive rights to the creator through the use of patents, copyrights, trademarks and trade secrets. It can also cover less tangible concepts such as ideas; be it a new invention or a simply new spin on a topic for a blog post. You have to be vigilant in avoiding violation of intellectual property laws.
That being said, a great way to spice up your article is to include quotes from experts or relevant statistics and data. If you find something during your research that you couldn’t say any better yourself, use it, attribute it and add your own thoughts. Just because a topic has been written about before doesn’t mean there isn’t a fresh, genuine and personal way to approach it.
In order for your content about popular subjects to be seen, it has to stand out from the mountain of similar information already available. One way to distinguish your content from others’ is to add a little bit of your own experience. Anyone can write about any topic, but integrating a personal anecdote or first-hand knowledge is what makes a piece your own. Your experience and insight is what you’re bringing to the table.
It’s the same idea as asking five different people what color the ocean is. They’ll each have their own way of describing it, but essentially they’ll all be saying that it’s blue. The information may already be out there, but what people are really looking for is a different and personal approach. Take some time to read a few of the many posts on whatever subject you’re writing about and acknowledge them in your piece by agreeing, disagreeing, responding and/or adding to the discussion. Even this particular topic, creating original content, has been written about endlessly, but this article still has inherent value because it approaches and frames the discussion in its own unique way.
The main thing to remember when blogging is that you have your own unique voice and that your personal insight and experience can add value to any conversation, no matter how long ago it started. Jump in with you own stories, perspectives and ideas. Just because you’re late to the party doesn’t mean you can’t join in the fun.