“Everybody has won and all must have prizes.”
- Dodo, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
I recently read an article found in Harper’s Magazine titled, “The War on Unhappiness: Goodbye Freud, Hello Positive Thinking,” by Gary Greenberg (only available to subscribers) that introduced me to the concept of the dodo effect that is found in psychotherapy. The dodo effect says that:
Therapeutic orientation doesn’t matter because all orientations work. The single factor that makes a difference in outcome is faith: the patient must believe in the therapist, and the therapist must believe in his orientation. For therapy to work, both parties must have faith, sometimes against all reason, that their expedition will succeed.
I read this and thought about how writers influence their readers for the better, and what separates the highly successful ones from the rest of us.
What separates writers of influence from newspaper journalists is that these kind of writers believe in their work, as much as, and probably more, than their readers. It goes beyond having a passion about a topic. One must have a passion, live by the rules they set out for their readers, and be able to demonstrate to them that they are living by those rules and that the rules work.
[ The dodo effect is named after the Dodo in Alice in Wonderland, who issued a challenge to Alice and her companions after they had gotten wet. In order to dry themselves off, they were to race around the lake until they were dry. No one had bothered to measure how far anyone ran nor how fast, so at the end, they asked the Dodo which of them had won. The Dodo replied, "Everybody has won and all must have prizes." ]
Writer of Influence versus a Hack Writer
To me, the easy way to spot a writer of influence starts with their subject matter. I scan through the front page of the blog and look for the warning signs of someone who does not fully believe in their writing, namely advertising. I am not talking about a few advertisements on the side or at the very bottom of the page, but if a page has ads floating in between paragraphs, then the writer is not 100% dedicated to their content. They are most likely writing with the chains of SEO attached at their ankles and not being themselves in their writing.
Another sign is when it is extremely difficult to find anything else to read beyond what is in front of me. Writers of influence want their content to read, shared, and widely available. When it is hidden from view, that tells me that the content really does not matter to them nearly as much as it should. If you put more than ten minutes into writing something, you should feel proud of it and want it to be shared. If you write something in less than ten minutes, either you are extremely gifted or you are not putting a full effort into writing. Sometimes, you can summarize a topic in under 500 words, but when I see repeated posts in under 500 words about similar subject matter, I have doubts in how invested that writer is with those ideas.
Living by the Rules
Sooner or later, a writer of influence is going to set-up some rules for their readers to abide by that will improve upon their life in some fashion, whether it would be their health, finances, writing, etc. They will have links to “Topic 101,” a FAQ, How-To’s, or write posts with headlines geared towards making a change in your life. I will use Steve Pavlina’s blog as an example since he uses all of these within his post titles. Here are some of his more popular posts:
- How to Discover Your Life Purpose in About 20 Minutes
- How to Be a Man
- How to Cook Brown Rice
- Levels of Consciousness
- 10 Stupid Mistakes Made by the Newly Self-Employed
If you read any of his articles, you will quickly realize that Steve uses a lot of his own life examples to demonstrate the rules he is living by. It is easy to create rules for people to live by, but by providing past experiences of how he made those changes himself, it is a lot easier for people to believe in Steve’s ideas – and make the changes themselves. Steve not only writes about his examples, but shares them in other ways, through video, interviews, a book, forum, and his seminars.
The power of influence begins and ends with you. Without you living by your rules, you would have no influence over anyone else. And without you, people would not be able to be influenced by you. To become a writer of influence, we must focus on what we are writing and put all our effort into it to make it believable to everyone who comes across it. We should not be seeking shortcuts to create as much content as possible, but instead focus on quality content that will be meaningful to the readers we want to influence.
Like the Dodo, we want everyone to win.