Provoking Change with the Elements of Content

The elements both fascinate me and terrify me. I tilt my face to the sun with arms wide open, and I’m glued to the television when watching devastating hurricanes blow by.

Powerful content must resonate so strongly with the reader that she can’t turn away. Likewise, once you’re caught in the torrential rain, crushing winds, and merciless storm surge of a hurricane, you’ve got no choice but to ride it out to the end.

elements.jpgSo wrote Brian Clark in a recent post on How to Rock your Readers like a Hurricane, and the post itself rocked my thoughts for more than a week. I want a tempest in the blogosphere ripping around me so strong that I can almost taste it.

But damned if I could put my finger on my thoughts to write them down here.

It was much the same a month or so ago, when I read Brian’s post on The Content Crossroads. His words haunted my thoughts for a long, long time and they probably will for as long as I live.

Choices. We stand at the intersection of choices, and I have made my choice. I want to rock my readers like a hurricane and lead them down the path of change at the crossroads. I want to laugh with the power of inspiration and revel in the effects that ripple outwards.

I want to provoke the dog they call Internet, poking at it until writers get creative with content when the avalanche of dominoes tumble them over and they succumb to something different, something unique.

We can change the Internet. We can cause the dominoes to fall and seize what is ours. This is our time, our place. We can create a virtual world of our making – not someone else’s.

Even the gentlest of breezes of voice has an effect on the world. Dipped left or right by passing wind, a blade of grass can provide shade. A thin branch bent by the snow provides opportunity for the squirrel to jump. A heavy rain brings drenching water to dry, gasping lands. And the wheat grows golden in the bright sunshine.

Imagine if every piece you read dazzled with insight and thoughtful words. Imagine the unique voices clamoring together in a song that ripples across the high-speed connection lines.

Imagine the feeling you’d have when history books speak of what the Web was – and what it became.

Imagine saying to a friend, “I was part of that.”

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

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  1. Brett Legree says:

    I’m not sure what I can add to this beautiful piece of inspiration. So I won’t, but to say “good work”.

    Oh, and I’m going to be a part of this change.

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..why six weeks.

  2. James,

    Nice writing. I can feel your high right through the screen. If there’s anyone who knows how to provoke the dog, well, it’s you, so I guess the www better watch out.

    Why does Skellie say great writing isn’t that important? I think it’s essential. Some suggest blogs are dead or dying, but I think “shaking out” is more likely. Strong, evocative writing like this piece elevates what “bloggers” are all about.

    James Chartrand—Shaking the Tree. Nice.

    Regards,

    Kelly

    Kelly’s last blog post..Inspiration Points: Ideas

  3. @ Kelly – It’s your fault that I now have “The Joker” singing through my head about peaches.

    I read last night that only 55% of blogs are still alive after three months, and one-fifth of those bloggers don’t expect their blog to live a year. If that’s so, only 44% of blogs last a year and cover a wide range of niches and topics.

    I figure I have a shot. Oh wait. We’ve been doing this longer than a year :) Looks like we’re on the right path.

    And thank you for the kind words. That was very nice to hear this morning.

  4. I don’t visit Brian’s blog every day, so I missed that post. Now I have twice as much to think about. :-)

    You do always seem to make me think first thing in the morning.

    Pen Men: Like Caffeine But Without the Jitters?

    Oh and James, your blog is not allowed to die. Ever.

    Amy’s last blog post..Confessions of a Closet Slob

  5. I admire your intention to create hurricane force changes in the internet world. It would be very great to be able to write great content that does all you describe above. And as an intention I admire it, and want to be part of it.

    It’s just that we didn’t all start out as great writers. I’m a starting writer myself and I think blogging is a great way to learn how to write fast. I’ve been blogging for almost a year now (4 more days to go) and I’ve truly learned a lot about writing. I experimented quite a lot, and found a lot of things that don’t work :)

    I also connected to great people (like the Pen Men) and found great resources to learn more about (copy)writing. I also added a wide variety of words to my (non-native) English vocabulary.

    The intention definitely is there, but you can’t just start out being great I guess :) It’s something you achieve over the long haul.

    Thanks for the inspiration :)

    Lodewijk van den Broek’s last blog post..Review week 13-2008; Goals, blog and productivity habits

  6. YES!
    Imagine if writers everywhere remembered that writing was art, not just an exercise in list making.

    Not that lists aren’t important, and don’t provide content and information, but how more interesting it would be to read if the words were painted on with the brush of inspiration!

    Nicely done.

    Wendi Kelly’s last blog post..The Magical Word

  7. @ Wendy – Weeeeell, if you’re looking for a writer who believes writing is art, that person would not be me. I have pretty strong views about what art is and what it isn’t, and I feel that writing is a craft, a trade, and not art.

    That doesn’t mean we can’t be creative and artful while we ply our trade to the world, though. Hence this post :)

    @ Lode – I admire you more than you realize. You’re German (located in Germany, I believe) and writing in fluent English to a mass of international readers. I’m sure when you were five, you didn’t believe this is how your life would turn out, and you’ve overcome some serious communication barriers to learn how to reach the world. Congratulations, my friend.

    @ Amy – Our blog will never die. We invested far too much into it to allow such a tragedy, and we believe too strongly in what makes a good blog to not do what we can to provoke change around the world.

    As for caffeine… I drink a lot of it.

  8. James,

    Haha, that was unintended. Aiming for Peter Gabriel to be stuck in your head. On the other hand, you got The Joker stuck in my head a week or two ago (I forget where/why), so it must be a little karmic payback. Or voodoo?

    Later,

    Kelly

    Kelly’s last blog post..Inspiration Points: Ideas

  9. Brett Legree says:

    @ James: coffee is on the way, my friend… ;)

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..why six weeks.

  10. Great post, James – your passion for rocking out the internet is sure to inspire all of us to pay mind to our content :)

    RLD: Taekwondo Happiness’s last blog post..Update

  11. I love this– because lately, I’ve been seeing so many blogs churning out uninspiring content. Let the hurricane move in! :)

  12. Thanks James :)

    Slight correction, I’m located a notch to the west. I’m a Dutch guy, located in the Netherlands (that tiny speck of land, bordering on the North Sea).

  13. @ Lode – My sister lives there in The Hague :) The only dutch word I know how to say is “Kadochis!” I love kadochis.

  14. Thanks for the inspiration, James.

    Men with Pens
    Forces of Nature

    Nez’s last blog post..New Web 2.0 Application to Catapult Blogging Experience to Ultimate Extreme

  15. Wendi Kelly says:

    James,

    Hmmm. arts and crafts… crafts and trade….

    I would be very interested in hearing about your very strong views about what is art and what isn’t. I like the way you put that…being artful….ok, I can go with that…..:)

  16. @ Wendy – Lucky for you, I have just the thing to help give you an idea :)

    http://menwithpens.ca/is-writing-an-art-or-a-trade

    Enjoy, and let me know what you think after reading.

  17. Brett Legree says:

    I was re-reading this James, I like what you said about the breeze having an effect on the world. It reminds me of the “butterfly effect” post I did a while back.

    I received a really special email from an old friend about my new blog page, and I’m going to write about it soon.

    It is amazing how powerful simple words can be, and how they can have an effect on another’s life. This email gave me all the encouragement I’ll need for some time.

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..why six weeks.

  18. It’s very flattering that you found inspiration in those two posts, James. Those are the kind of things I really enjoy writing, but they come along only when they want to.

    I think you may have found your calling as a motivational writer. Your tutorial articles are always solid, but you really seem to hit your stride when you’re inciting passion in your readers.

    Brian Clark’s last blog post..Heading to San Francisco

  19. Ruth Logan Herne says:

    Aw, James, they give you a platform and you positively wax poetic.

    Who knew?

    Strong blog, great depth and fun use of words to create and inspire feelings, which I’m hoping will carry (in measured form, of course) into your fiction venture.

    Loved having you guys visit us in Seekerville, and I’m looking forward to browsing your archives, kind of like window shopping for something a little different, a bit daring, but not downright skanky.

    Just a bit of shake-’em-up kind of fun.

    And Harry, I’m SO sorry I had to miss most of yesterday with you guys, because playing in the Seekerville Central Square with the two of you was fun on more levels than Japanese architecture could ever hope to embrace. Be nice to James, his thought planes bear weight and that can be absolutely exhausting, even on a good day.

    ;)

    Hope it’s okay if I stop in and play from time to time.

    Ruthy

  20. @ Ruthy – You are definitely more than welcome and if you enjoyed the conversation over at Seekerville, I think you’ll feel right at home over here. We enjoyed the experience over there (yes, even being mobbed) and it’d be nice to be invited back.

    Oh, and I grab my own platform. I don’t wait for anyone to hand it to me ;)

    @ Brian – Those types of posts are ones that throw me off for days and really get me thinking, so I thank you for writing them.

    As for my calling… Those are the kind of things I really enjoy writing, but they come along only when they want to.

    Agreed. Let me know when you find a cure for that.

  21. @Ruthy: I’m , always nice to James. Stop in anytime, I need my steady supply of bagels and lox.

    @Brian: Every so often James hits on something good and usually the deep-thinking stuff always comes after you’ve given his brain a friendly shove, then he goes all introspective on me. It’s cool though, keeps him on his toes. And I fully understand things coming in their own time. Some things cannot be rushed.

    @James: There is no cure. It happens when it happens. The trick is recognizing it and riding that tide. :)

  22. @ Kelly – I read that too, over at Skellie’s. I wondered about it. For me, good, juicy, creative content is everything. I like to be inspired; I like to be rocked.
    @James – I read your posts over at Brian Clarks, and I enjoyed the inspirational post the best. I’m sorry, I’m just not up for taglines now. I don’t have one for myself.
    @Brian – I agree with you in that it does take time to find your stride as a writer. It doesn’t happen overnight, but I suppose people with get rich blog schemes are hoping it will.

    Ellen Wilson’s last blog post..It’s Your Business: So Don’t Tell the Devil

  23. Ellen,

    You know, she explained it pretty well, she even came back and defended it, but still… I think everybody should give things a try if they want, but I think quality will find a quality audience, whether writing, design, art, music, film… to say rah-rah, and suggest that everybody jump on board, fine; but to suggest that real, powerful ability isn’t all that important, that’s just not so. The blogs I stick with (including hers) all have it.

    (If you don’t have quality work, the appropriate audience for that may find you, too… or none at all. The Internet is the free market at its free-est. Gotta love that.)

    Regards,

    Kelly

    Kelly’s last blog post..Inspiration Points: Ideas

  24. I love that I can get up and write about hurricanes and Blue Rodeo and rock the content. And people read it. That’s what I love.

  25. Changing the Internet is a hefty goal, but to me changing the real world through writing is a much stronger one. Cool things happen online but really horrible things happen in the real world that no one talks about. Human trafficking, rape, murder, abuse.

    If I could say at some point that I was a part of some change through my writing, I would want it to be change in which helped people who really need help. Not the upper to middle classes of developed societies that have Internet access.

    Allison

    fourclover’s last blog post..Even ?apek was a journalist

  26. @ Allison – Thanks for sharing your views. I agree with you that there are some horrible things going on in the world… and I do what I can to influence where I can.

    I don’t think that going out to write “Stop this” on lampposts will do much. But if I can help educate people to deliver a message more effectively, maybe they’ll listen up and learn. Worth a shot, no?

  27. @James

    I’m an aspiring journalist, that’s how I intend to make change and to educate people. I agree that writing on lampposts isn’t going to do a damn thing.

    Allison

    fourclover’s last blog post..Even ?apek was a journalist

  28. @Allison – I totally agree with you. And that’s what I’m trying to focus on with my writing. I’m working on a piece right now, “Could You be a War Photographer?” that really hits the bone for me. Horrible things do happen, and they need to be discussed. Now I am intrigued, and I’m checking out your blog.

    @Kelly – I also agree with you. We need to go places where we are inspired, that bring out the best in us. I also like your Leonardo piece by the way. It was really funny. You have a great sense of humor.

    Ellen Wilson’s last blog post..It’s Your Business: So Don’t Tell the Devil

  29. Brett Legree says:

    @ Ellen: that sounds like it will be a really great piece, I’ll be looking for that. You are right on the mark – we have to talk about these things to change them.

    @ Allison: I got the shirt, I got the shirt!!!!!!!!! woo hoo, it looks great :)

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..why six weeks.

  30. @Ellen: That project sounds very intriguing. I’ve always wondered about war photographers, especially during the Vietnam War. That was intense and it doesn’t get easier. Discussion is a key factor in changing things, and photos can help drastically to bring light to subjects many like to pretend don’t exist. Let me know how the project turns out.

    @Brett: Shirt?

    fourclover’s last blog post..Even ?apek was a journalist

  31. Brett Legree says:

    (*blush*) nix that, wrong Allison… LOL need a coffee, that’ll teach me to let the caffeine levels drop in my blood!

    (sushi day Allison was the one I meant – I’ll put a picture up some time anyway… cool shirt)

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..why six weeks.

  32. @Brett: Heh, no worries. I looked through your blog comments and thought you may have been confused. I do, however, love sushi.

    fourclover’s last blog post..Even ?apek was a journalist

  33. Brett Legree says:

    @ fourclover Allison ;) well, pleased to meet you – I like your latest blog post (had a peek)

    (As I say at my blog) fail early, fail often – and sometimes you meet people under interesting circumstances LOL

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..why six weeks.

  34. Amen.

    Quality takes time and hard work.

    The results are worth it.

    Period.

    Laura Spencer’s last blog post..WAHM Wednesday: How Many Pages Should A Writer Produce in a Day?

  35. Remarkablogger says:

    I want to be a part of that, too. it’s a worthwhile quest. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Remarkablogger’s last blog post..How Would You Like Your Blog Traffic – Rare or Well Done?

  36. You really are inspiration, James. I’d love to be a part of this movement to but so often it’s really hard to reach that mark. I don’t know how Brian manages to accomplish it so often. How do we call on that inspired message? How do we reach that level of impact every time we want to?

    I write for the change words can bring into the world. Even if it is only to a small degree. Affect the change we can affect and who knows where the 6 degrees of separation will take that. It’s important to be aware of how far reaching everything we say, do, or even think, can be. We might just be tiny in perspective but that doesn’t mean we aren’t like a drop of water on a lake.

    Rebecca Laffar-Smith’s last blog post..Book Review: 10-Minute Clutter Control

  37. Hi James:

    I’m a new to your blog. Loved this post–as well as yesterday’s post on Copyblogger.

    I marvel at other copywriters who manage to squeeze blogging into schedules already jammed with multiple deadlines, ongoing self-marketing and—well, life.

    Doesn’t it take a helluva lot of time to write, revise, tweak and proof a post that lets you rock your “readers like a hurricane and lead them down the path of change at the crossroads”?

    Aside from an inside deal with the Prince of Darkness, how do you carve out the time?

  38. @ Lorraine – That is the ultimate question of the year: Just how *DOES* James manage to do everything he does 24 hours, and sleep, and eat, and raise a family?

    I’m not sure myself. I can say I’m dead tired at the end of the night.

    Good to have you here and looking forward to seeing more of you!

    @ Rebecca – Think just a little bigger… drops of water can swell a creek into a river until it floods and crashes through bridges. I’m just the kayaker howling with glee at the helm of it all :)

  39. @Lorraine: I’ve been asking myself that same question. I’ll be writing a post on it soon.

  40. Damn. I wish I’d written that.

  41. Ellen,

    Thanks, glad you liked it. If Leo ever sees it, I hope he thinks it’s as funny… and then gets the point. (It’s getting traffic from his fan sites… they must be pretty disappointed when they get there! Ha!)

    Hey Brett,

    Your comments are on fire. I’m thrilled for you and intensely, but very politely, jealous. :D

    You missed the man on the moon (I snooped on About page, of course). Probably a good thing—I never hear the end of how when propped up in front of it, I dared to have no interest whatsoever. No kidding, this is a real topic w/ Mom and Dad, who are otherwise sane. (I was six months old.) Eeek.

    All the best.

    James,

    Remember a long time ago (perhaps this was in those halcyon days) I asked you whether men’s and women’s comments varied noticeably at MWP, because I’d heard X writer saying he found they really fell along gender lines?

    I have another question that I’ve been thinking about all day as this glow-fest has been going on. Do you think that if the first few comments swing one way or another, they generally color the direction of the comments? I mean, if Brett and I and a few others had read the post at six a.m. and despised it, do you think people would be viewing this differently, going back and saying wait why did they hate it, and coming back with yeah, I hated that too? I remember a couple of weeks ago you did a post and said you were surprised you weren’t getting hammered about it, and I wondered about it then, too. Do you feel like there’s a commenters’ bandwagon and folks generally get on it, whatever direction it’s going? Curious….

    Regards,

    Kelly

    Kelly’s last blog post..Inspiration Points: Ideas

  42. Brett Legree says:

    @ Kelly: thank you, and remember it is because of all of you out there. :) I know, and even in spite of being a few months too late for Tranquility Base, I wanted desperately to be an astronaut for the longest time (what kid didn’t, at some point?) – who knows, someday it might happen thanks to folks like Richard Branson…

    Thanks for the encouragement.

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..why six weeks.

  43. Brett,

    I hear they’re already lining up, if you’ve got the $100 mill. Maybe with the USD the way it is, you can swing that now. :)

    Later,

    Kelly

    Kelly’s last blog post..Inspiration Points: Ideas

  44. @Kelly – I will tell you a secret. It’s the groovy women like us who comment on this blog…that draws all the traffic. James and Harry don’t want to admit it. But it’s true.

    Create some FIRE.

    Maybe it’s a ying/yang thing. I don know. Why should the men get all the fame, eh?

    @Brett – My mate wanted to be fighter pilot. And now, I am forever subjected to every damn air plane description under the sun. Now, he gardens. And fishes.

    I still hate flying,.

    When I was growing up I wanted to be a marine biologist.

    Ellen Wilson’s last blog post..The Blog Renaissance

  45. Create some FIRE? Ellen, I like your style! Why let James hold the lighter all the time? Pretty fire…

    Confident chicks rule. (The best thing about being a woman is the prerogative to have a little fun.) Fiery chicks cause sparks. It can’t all be steel-barreled pens around here, can it?

    ;)

    Emoticons keep some sparks at bay. This is why I should use them more often. This is also why I don’t like them. *sigh*

    Kelly’s last blog post..Inspiration Points: Ideas

  46. Either James is on to something or he’s on something! LOL

    You know me James, I’ll board the ship, hoist the sail, and brave the torrential down pour during the hurricane with you guys. I’m always looking to the future. Looking to push the boundaries. That’s why I watch Star Trek and live by the teachings of Tyler Durden.

    John Hoff’s last blog post..Is Your Website Web 2.0 or Corporate?

  47. Sorry for the delay in response. I’m in a completely different time zone, I think.

    @Rebecca: I agree with you that we should affect the change we can. Even if it’s small. It goes in small steps, yes? But if it’s in your power to make big changes, will you? It’s not always easy …

    @Ellen: I hate flying, too. Even without all the TSA crap.

    @Brett: Nice to meet you, too. It’s true that you can meet many good people mostly by accident.

    fourclover’s last blog post..Even ?apek was a journalist

  48. Brett Legree says:

    @ Kelly: (reaches into his pocket to pull out $100M… finds dust… :) ) come on US dollar! I hear you, well, maybe the price will drop so that by the time we’re really really old… we still can’t afford it!

    @ Ellen: FIRE. That’s what you ladies create here, ’tis true. Glad that you are here… ;) that made me laugh too, I’d also subject you to air plane descriptions, I think desire to be an astronaut and desire to be a fighter pilot go hand in hand. I don’t fish, but I’m learning to garden…

    @ John: Star Trek & Tyler Durden yeah baby

    @ fourclover: come to think of it, I met my wife by accident…

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..the power of one.

  49. @ Ellen – That’s MY lighter. Give it back to Harry.

    @ John – I laughed my ass off on that one :) I promise you I wasn’t on something, so I must be onto something.

    @ Four – They’re all good people. Watch out for Kelly, though. She does voodoo 2.0.

    @ Brett – The exchange SUCKS, dude. I lose money every time I cash in on my earnings. Sad.

    @ Ellen – You know, I think the whole group is pretty groovy. I have a nice crowd.

    @ Kelly – I never thought about it, but you’re absolutely right, and yes, I agree with you. Groupthink is a powerful, powerful thing. Also, foot in the door syndrome goes on quite a bit around here. It’s cool.

    Who said our comments were gender leaning?

  50. James,

    I believe I’d heard [forgotten author] say that men tended to confront/ disagree or recommend improvements, while women generally said, love your work, yeah, I agree, rock on, etc. You said that it wasn’t perfectly so here but similar. (Maybe on that first post at Copyblogger. I could look, but I’m running late….)

    Gotta go.

    Until later,

    Kelly

    Kelly’s last blog post..Inspiration Points: Ideas

  51. *sigh* School started, so now I miss all the fun! Anyways, fantastic post! I LOVE writers who want to write thought-provoking, world-changing posts, and not just the same old list crap. (Not to say all lists are bad, but some of them just get regurgitated over and over and over again! )

    @ Brett – Yay! I’m glad to hear you got it!

    @ Allison – Sorry for the confusion! I’m the Allison that Brett thought he was talking to. :) It’s very nice to meet you… great to have another Allison here who loves sushi!

    @ Everyone else – To minimize confusion, you may refer to me as “Sushi” :D

    @ James – Do you realize you have been spelling Wendi’s name wrong every time? I don’t mean to nitpick, but it does kind-of tickle me. :)

    Allison’s last blog post..It’s Your Time To Shine!

  52. @ Allison – Trust my crew to catch me on my screwups :)

    @ Wendi – My apologies. I was so tired yesterday my mind must’ve been blipping!

  53. @Allison- Thank you, that was kind of you, I get so used to it that it passes me by.

    @James- apologies accepted, no worries, I must not be too upset, I have been here at your site for the last two hours going through the archives. Good stuff here.

    Wendi Kelly’s last blog post..Stop and Smell the Goodness

  54. @Allison: Good to meet you too! I’m glad you spell your name correctly ;)

    I hadn’t actually tried sushi until about two years ago, but it is delicious.

    I agree about the regurgitated content annoyance. It happens with lists and with other things as well if you read blogs that are similar in purpose. Do you know how many blog posts I’ve read in the past week that talked about the usefulness of Twitter? It’s not all bad, but there can’t be too much original content with so many.

    @James: You can’t catch every error yourself, yeah? And thanks for dropping by earlier.

    I’ll go by Ally now, to make it easy.

    Ally

    fourclover’s last blog post..What “real” writing is and where journalists fit in

  55. Stumbled upon your site through Copyblogger.com and i ended up reading through your posts the whole night. Guess i had to ride through the hurricane ;)

    But what interests me the most is,

    How did you create these great graphics?
    http://menwithpens.ca/wp-content/uploads/2008/03/elements.jpg

  56. @ VC – I have a secret weapon called Harry. He’s like a magic wand, only with the added bonus that he keeps me in line verbally, too!

    Welcome to the gang and enjoy the ride.

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