How Charles Bukowski taught me to be a better content writer
As somebody who writes for both a living and a hobby, it’s hardly a shocking revelation to admit that a lot of my inspiration comes from novels. However, a lot of people are somewhat surprised by the type of novels that continue to inspire me on a day-to-day basis. I get my marketing inspiration from Fight Club and Tyler Durden's voice of anti-consumerism. And I get my copywriting motivation from the famously controversial poet, Charles Bukowski.
Granted, I appreciate the many, many valid points as to why Bukowski shouldn't be considered a hero. Misogynistic, nihilistic, alcoholic; he's seen as the poster boy of all of those traits. But he had an unquestionable talent and an unrivalled passion. That's what I admire. Bukowski was irreverent towards those who wrote for anything other than sheer pleasure. He made that clear in his famous poem, “So you want to be a writer?”. Whilst this poem is seemingly aimed towards those writing fiction or poetry, copywriters and marketing professionals can also glean valuable lessons from Bukowski and this masterpiece.
Keep it simple
Bukowski once said, “Genius might be the ability to say a profound thing in a simple way.” Ironically, this fittingly ties in with one of our very own guiding principles here at upriseVSI; keep it simple. However, a lot of brands assume that simplicity equates to thoughtlessness. Nothing could be further from the truth. When it comes to writing, it’s important to paint a picture in order to hook a reader. That being said, it’s notoriously difficult to get someone to read an entire page online. We have short attention spans. We're a generation that wants everything instantly. In order to grip your audience, you need to find a hook and you need to find it fast. The only way to do this is to keep it simple. Finding the right balance of simplicity and effectiveness can be challenging, but it's the only way to be truly influential in an overcrowded industry.
Don’t get bogged down with adjectives
In the world of marketing, a good description of what you’re trying to sell is obviously important. I'm not here to dispute that. Yet, many people think that shoving a bunch of adjectives into a sentence is the best way to achieve this. Bukowski wasn’t one to prettify his prose. It’s a trait that many of my favourite writers share. Overwriting a sentence won’t make your readers feel anything more deeply. Again, this comes back to keeping it simple. Make every word count. Let’s be honest, of course you are going to describe your service as being incredible, wonderful and everything in between. Those words will always fall on deaf ears. It's white noise. Tone of voice and a compelling brand message are far more important than the adjectives you use to describe your product.
Be honest, transparent and human.
As I’ve said, Bukowski was considered a truly awful human and because of this, it's very rare that he makes the cut when people write about the best American authors. In fact, I regularly find myself having to justify the fact that I consider him an influence. He’s defined by some of his worst characteristics. But he wrote with a profound honesty. He never tried to mask these flaws. In the same way that he accepted his famous facial scarring, he accepted the ugliness of his character. This acknowledgement and raw honesty are arguably what made him the writer that I fell in love with.
In a world of smart technology and robots, honesty is a very powerful thing. With content marketing, it’s important to have a voice that’s authentic and genuine; it essentially has to be human. Yet, the ‘human’ constructed by many marketing companies never seems to be that authentic. It's bland. There’s a positive spin put on everything and flaws are overlooked. This perception of absolute perfection is difficult to relate to and it quickly grows old. Being human means making mistakes, and sometimes that can get a little ugly. It means trying new things and sometimes failing. Bukowski was never one to shy away from his flaws, and that's what makes his voice so easy to resonate with. When he combined passion with honesty, it led to some of his best work. Similarly, you need to know your brand, warts and all.
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