As I walked down the hallway towards my college dorm, I could already smell it.
“Not again,” I thought to myself. “Please, Lord, not again.”
As I reached for the door, I took a deep breath. I knew the horrors which awaited me on the other side.
Fred, my roommate, was a psychopath. I didn’t want to admit so at first, but I couldn’t deny it any longer.
I had seen too much. Endured too much. Smelled too much.
Oh, that smell. That horrible, nauseating smell.
If I was lucky, the worst would already be over. The stench would remain, of course, but at least I wouldn’t have to witness the horrible deed.
Night after night, Fred would drag his latest victim from the bottom of his closet.
As he gathered his tools, I tried to be somewhere else. I would whistle to myself. Sometimes I would put on my headphones and listen to music. Sometimes I would study for an upcoming exam.
But I couldn’t look away. Heaven help me, I couldn’t look away.
All these years later, I can still see his big, evil grin when I close my eyes. Fred had a hunger which seemingly could not be satisfied.
I tried to stop him. I really did.
I told others what he was doing, but no one believed me. Everyone thought I was joking.
I would free his victims while he was away, but for every victim I freed he’d come back with two more.
Eventually, I became numb to it. I told myself, “this is my life now.”
I was just happy it wasn’t me.
As I opened the door, there was no doubting the horror show which had taken place moments earlier.
Fred was sitting in his chair. In the small garbage can next to him, I saw what remained of his feast.
I said hello and he gave me a big, creepy smile.
“Oh my goodness,” I screamed inside my head.
“He still has some of…it in his teeth.”
Enough was enough. This was ending. Right then. Right there.
“Fred,” I began. “I just got back from the doctor.”
“Oh,” he replied.
“I’m afraid I have some bad news. The doctor said I’m allergic to the smell of tuna fish. You’re going to have to stop eating it.”
I could see the wheels trying to spin in his tiny, psychotic brain. We had been roommates for a little over two months, and every day for those two months Fred would eat the same meal for lunch and dinner:
Canned tuna and mayo, with canned cranberry sauce on the side.
Our dorm room constantly smelled like tuna. The hallway smelled like tuna. Our clothes smelled like tuna.
So, yes, I lied. I faked an allergy.
I walked over to his closet, picked up his dozen or so cans of tuna, and told him I was going to donate them to the campus food bank.
As I left our dorm, a beam of sunshine peaked through the clouds.
“I think we’re going to be okay,” I said to no one in particular.
Are You A Repetitive Blogger?
I’m not asking if you repeat points within your posts. Emphasizing important ideas is a good thing, and oftentimes this means repeating a point you’ve made earlier to ensure your readers take note.
No, I’m asking if your posts blend together.
When someone reads a post of yours, can they differentiate it from other posts you’ve written? Do each of your posts stand out in their own way? Are your messages clear and distinct?
Or, are you offering the proverbial tuna and cranberry sauce to your readers day after day, week after week, month after month?
Their posts are interchangeable.
The titles sound similar. The topics are similar. The tone is similar.
Visitors will check out their latest post and think: “Didn’t I read this a month ago? I’m pretty sure I read this a month ago.”
This is a problem.
But Is Repetitiveness Your Problem?
Here are a few things to ask yourself…
“Do my post titles all sound the same?”
How-to and list posts are effective, but they can easily sound similar if you aren’t careful.
This is also true with the “curiosity gap” style of headlines popularized by Upworthy. Take the following two titles for two completely different articles:
- “See Why We Have An Absolutely Ridiculous Standard Of Beauty In Just 37 Seconds”
- “Watch The First 54 Seconds. That’s All I Ask. You’ll Be Hooked After That, I Swear”
Besides being insufferable, these titles are indistinguishable.
“Do I tend to write about the same things over and over?”
This is a tricky one because obviously your blog should be about what it’s about.
If you’re a food blogger, all your posts will be (or should be) about food.
But if you’ve written a dozen or so posts about omelets, chances are they’re going to blend together to your readers. Right?
This isn’t to say you should never write about omelets again. Some topics need — nay, DEMAND — repeated visits. But you’ve got to make sure you’re revisiting them in interesting (and unique) ways.
The same holds true regardless of your blog’s topic. If you’ve written about something before, and you want to write about it again, you need to present it in a new way.
No one likes reruns.
“Do I close all my posts the same way?”
Back before I knew better, each of my posts would end the same way.
The words would be changed here and there, but for the most part each of my posts had the same closing.
In addition to being a lost opportunity to reemphasize points I made, this caused posts of mine with no other similarities whatsoever to feel similar.
Don’t end all your posts asking readers what they think. Don’t end with the same corny joke. Don’t end with the same closing you used last week.
Challenge your readers. Compel them to take action. End on an inspirational note.
Besides… know what happens when you tend to end your posts the same way each time? Readers catch on and skip the ending. So, when the time comes where you do alter your closing with an important announcement or a new call to action, some of your readers will miss it.
Don’t let your closing turn into a blind spot. Keep your readers guessing. Give them a reason to read until the very end.
Being Unique While Still Being You
Tom Cruise can be seen running in practically every movie in which he’s appeared.
Brad Pitt is eating food throughout his movies.
John Cusack is seemingly always in the rain.
And yet, for the most part, their movies don’t blend together. Tom can run, Brad can eat, and John can boycott umbrellas, but their movies are still unique.
Because their movies aren’t about the running, eating, and getting your socks wet. They’re about espionage, fighting zombies, and holding boomboxes over your head while Peter Gabriel music plays.
It isn’t always easy, but we bloggers need to strike a similar balance.
The things which make us unique — our wit, our empathy, our knowledge, whatever — can be prevalent without our posts becoming big globs of sameness.
Are you up for the challenge?
Creative Commons Image via Capture Queen.