I saw a funny video recently about the African honey badger. The sheer determination and laser focus of this animal—which I had never even heard of—is impressive. Warning: Not for the squeamish or those offended by profanity.
Like hunting, content marketing is a process that takes time to excel at. Success requires strong writing skills and perseverance.
If you want to be exceptional with the written word, to regularly produce prose that’s not just informative but captivating, you’ll need to copy the honey badger. How?
One, Read Widely And Voraciously.
You need to need to ingest words as the honey badger attacks its prey, in a wide-ranging, catholic effort, meaning “of broad or liberal scope; comprehensive.” You cannot develop an ear for what sounds good without steeping yourself in the written word.
The honey badger takes nourishment wherever it can find it. Likewise, don’t think you must read [insert name of writer whose work you find incomprensible here] to be a better writer. But you must expose yourself to writers and thinkers who are more advanced than you.
Two, Don’t Run From The Inevitable Stings You’ll Receive.
Go after the honey regardless of the attacking bees. Nobody enjoys being critiqued or rejected, but you’ll need to work with people who are better than you and can see problems you’re oblivious to.
Getting detailed criticism and corrections and then incorporating them into your work can only improve it. Not from people who are close to you, who can be helpful for proofreading but are probably unwilling and unable to deliver hard truths. Honest, constructive feedback is rare from people who aren’t paid to give it, because nobody really welcomes it. To be edited is to be corrected, which is not something most of us find, well, rewarding. But it’s the only route to the sweet honey of success, so try to put your ego aside.
Three, Be Persistent And Dedicated To Your Goal.
When the honey badger is bitten by the cobra, he doesn’t flee. Incredibly, he persists with his kill, is knocked out temporarily by the venom, but then revives and finishes his meal. That’s how resilient you need to be. The slow, sometimes painful process of rewriting is the most efficient way to hone your skills. When you rewrite, you are forced to reconsider your original thoughts and work through problems and inconsistencies. You develop new strengths.
Conversely, if you get in the habit of putting something difficult aside, you will stay at the same level. It’s like the old joke:
How do you get to Carnegie Hall?
Practice, practice, practice.
All talent needs sharpening, whether it’s on the basketball court, the recording studio or the printed page. Nobody is born a skilled writer. Some may be natural storytellers, but translating a story in your head into the right words is challenging. As many a celebrated writer has lamented, many ideas don’t translate precisely from the sublime brilliance of one’s imagination to actual words, which can seem clumsy and inadequate.
The idea that some are simply born with talent that allows them to effortlessly excel has also been disproved by research. Overnight success is a myth. Malcolm Gladwell, in the bestselling Outliers, described Anders Ericsson’s work showing an average of 10,000 hours of deliberate practice are needed to reach expert level, even with inborn ability. Genetics may give a person an edge, but we do know that practice is essential.
Do you have any advice on improving your content marketing or writing skills? Let us know in the comments below.