It’s Already Been Done

At the risk of continuing to beat the drum about creating content, I was reminded of another objection excuse this week.

It’s an excuse that, if used by everyone, would bring civilization to a crashing halt.

The excuse is simply this: “Why should I write about this? Others have written about it before, and better.”

A valid thought is not a valid reason

As has been said, “… there is nothing new under the sun.” I think you and I would be hard pressed to come up with a topic that hasn’t been discussed or written about before. Even when it comes to technology, and particularly in today’s world of trivially created content, it seems everyone is saying something about everything all the time.

It’s something I come across at Ask Leo! all the time. Many, if not most, of the questions I answer have already been answered elsewhere. Heck, that’s often how I do my research! And, indeed, many of those other answers are more detailed and often better written, in some ways, than my own.

But that doesn’t stop me, and it shouldn’t stop you. You and I, even in addressing the same topics again, add value in our own, unique ways.

You bring your voice

One of the ways I add unique value is my ability to translate “tech” into language that is more readily accessible to the average person. It’s not something I originally set out to do (though I should have), but it’s something for which I’ve been explicitly recognized by my readers.

I present the same information in different words. Using my own style and voice, I bring my readers the exact same facts and answers – except instead of being difficult-to-interpret technical speak, they can understand and act on the information I provide in the way that I provide it. That’s part of my “voice” – the way I write. That’s part of the value I bring.

You, too, have your voice. Your way of interpreting and presenting information is different than anyone else’s. While you might be talking about the same thing as others have in the past, you’ll be saying it in a completely new way. That’s the beginning of your value.

You bring your opinions

Much of what we write is much more than dry facts. Even the simplest presentation goes beyond presenting “what” and moves on to include explanations, opinions, values, and suggestions, each of which is unique to you.

Using myself as an example again, my answers often include explanations of what I consider important, and suggestions of what to do with the factual information that I provide. Those viewpoints are unique to me. They represent my values and opinions on the topic at hand. I may be talking about the same thing hundreds of others have discussed in the past, but my recommendations and thoughts on the matter are uniquely my own.

My readers need not agree (just review the comments on some of my articles), but they are exposed to an additional point of view. It helps them think through issues for themselves, and come to their own conclusions.

You, too, have your opinions and perspective. You have your approach to understanding what it is about your topic that’s important, and why. Your perspective and explanations – even about topics as old as time – can add tremendous value to your readers.

You speak to your audience

One common mistake I see writers making repeatedly is thinking that their audience is the world. Worse, they see someone else in the same field and assume they share the same audience.

Hardly. Your audience is your audience. It’s something less than the entire world, and has only some overlap with the audiences of those you might consider your predecessors or competitors.

This took me a while to understand myself. Online technical support is a crowded field, and yet here I am. I have a substantial audience. There is overlap, to be sure, with other sources of technical information online, but I definitely have an audience that follows what I do. When I write, I write to them.1

You can’t assume your audience has read everything, especially with today’s flood of information. It’s very possible that the first they hear of a topic is when you write about it. Even if they had heard it before, you’ll be adding value by reminding them of its importance, in addition to providing your own voice and opinions.

Hallelujah

The recent death of Leonard Cohen brings one final example to mind.

How many cover versions of his popular song “Hallelujah” are there? A quick YouTube search returns dozens and dozens. And that’s just those that happen to have a video of some sort that’s been uploaded to this particular service. My guess would be that there are hundreds.

Hundreds of people singing the exact same song.

Each in their own way.2

None of them let the fact that there might have been a hundred before stop them from their performance. Each adds value to their audience in their own, unique, way.

As can you.


Footnotes

1: Or to you. It’s been tempting to litter this article with footnotes that say nothing more than “as I’m doing here”. I’ve resisted. But be aware that this article discusses topics that have been discussed at length elsewhere, and perhaps in ways that some might consider “better”. Like here. And here. And here. And probably even more places that my simple Google search didn’t show me. And yet, some will read this article – my article – and take away real value. Mission accomplished.

2: As a side note, I’m not really a fan of the original by Cohen himself. I’m more of a K.D.Lang or Pentatonix guy. The point is that each is unique, and appeals to different people in different ways.

2 comments on “It’s Already Been Done”

  1. Leo — You have put into words something I have struggled with for years. I often feel like what I have to say or do has been said and done, and better than I ever could, by many others.

    So here’s a metaphor within a metaphor (just like your article, if you follow me): I was never a fan of Leonard Cohen. I was a child of the ’50s and ’60s and my sisters loved him, so I pegged him as ‘girl stuff’. When he died, I was amazed to read that there were many covers of his song “Hallelujah”, a song I had never even heard of. But I had heard of KD Lang (was a great fan of her “Absolute Torch and Twang” years ago), so I clicked on your link … and was blown away, in the parlance of my generation. I now have a new appreciation of both Leonard Cohen and KD Lang.

    I return to AskLeo for tech help with my computer, but more importantly, for your ‘voice’, which always seems to expand my world. Thank you.

    Dan

  2. Leo, you are a source of common sense & good advice – re computers & also, I find, about life too – in a world sorely in need of voices like yours.

    keep up the good work!