What Every Writer Should Know About Web Technology

From Jeff: This is a guest post by Seth Leonard. Seth operates sparkmy.com, a complete guide to building and expanding your online presence. You can follow him on Twitter: @sethleonard.

It’s tough to be a writer. Finding inspiration and finding work do not always come easily. As newspapers fall out of print and books go digital, technology feels like yet another hurdle between your words and your audience. You may feel like your craft is held back by technology, but writers have an advantage.

Man Operating a Vintage Computer
Photo credit: Flickr (Creative Commons)

You are uniquely positioned to bridge the digital divide. So before you leave the tech to someone else, or worse, stay offline, here are three things every writer should know about web technology:

1. Technology is like writing

Writers know that there are rules to good writing. But they also know that those rules can bend or break and still create successful work. There’s not one way to write.

The same goes for technology.

A common misconception about the web is that there’s only one way to make it work. But today’s tools allow for more flexibility than ever before.

However, confidence matters. You may not know where you’re heading. You may not know every step you’ll take to your final result. But you start and you experiment, knowing you’ll figure it out.

As a writer, you expect to create multiple drafts. You should approach technology the same way. If it doesn’t work the first time, that doesn’t mean it will never work, or you’re not capable of making it work.

Give it another pass. If you’re really stuck after a few tries, ask for someone else’s opinion. Help is available.

2. Technology is easier than writing

My wife works for an organization that takes disconnected youth — some who have never so much as turned a computer on before — and teaches them IT skills.

Six months later, they are doing work at Facebook, Twitter, and eBay. I don’t think you could get similar results in the same amount of time with a writing program.

The truth is that you can learn technology more simply than you can learn writing. Especially good writing.

Consider yourself lucky. You have what everyone on the web wants: content. No “social media expert” can devise a strategy without good written content. You can’t optimize a blank page for search engines.

You can set up a blog more easily than a web designer can write something worth reading.

In the world of the web, you’re starting with the recipe and all the ingredients. All you need to do is figure out when to use a pot, when to use a pan, and what temperature to set the oven at.

You hold the most creative part. The rest is following instructions.

3. You don’t need to know technology anymore

Technology used to be more complicated. But, now, the web is evolving towards you.

The web used to be controlled by geeks. Now, the job of those geeks is to make your life easier.

You may not be able to program your own discussion forum, but why would you need to? Everything you need is available in easy-to-use tools.

Today, you can create a complete online presence without any expertise.

If you ever formatted a Word document, or posted something on Facebook, you have the technical skills needed to register a domain name, create a website or blog, engage on social media, and analyze your results.

With a few hints and a bit of experimentation, you can do the following:

  • Register a domain name: 15 minutes, $10
  • Create a blog on WordPress.com or Blogger: 2 hours, free
  • Build a Facebook page: 30 minutes, free
  • Start a Twitter account: 30 minutes, free
  • Configure stats programs: 45 minutes, free

For $10 and half a day, you could have everything you need to succeed online. And then the only thing you need to worry about is the writing.

But you’ve got that covered. Right?

What technical hurdle is keeping you from publishing your writing online? I’m eager to read your comments.