Media Shower writer Judah Fund is a lawyer turned writer who focuses on law, business, and economics.
There is a great episode of the sitcom Seinfeld entitled “The Pitch”. In this episode, the protagonists Jerry and George pitch to NBC executives a sitcom ‘about nothing’. As George explains it: “everybody is doing something, we’re gonna do nothing!” This episode was clearly a jab of self-deprecating humor since Seinfeld creators viewed their own show (quite proudly) as one without a clear plotline.
When we think of a show about nothing, what immediately comes to mind is a boring snooze-fest. Yet, Seinfeld is, until this day, one of the most watched television shows ever, and is considered by many to be hilariously funny. Clearly, Seinfeld isn’t completely void of content. There is something there.
The Art of Writing about Nothing
We may be able to understand this by examining Malcolm Gladwell’s unique writing style. When reading Gladwell’s books and essays, it seems like data and numbers are spewed in every which way. At times, it becomes hard to wrap your head around it all. Readers may feel that Gladwell is writing about nothing. No substance, no meaning, no relation to their lives. To further complicate things, Gladwell many times chooses to change course to a seemingly unrelated matter and pile on some more information. It just seems like there is no point in accumulating more of this meaningless data.
Then, quite suddenly, Gladwell will make sense of it all, delivering a final message that is deep, personal and relatable. The data provided helps to gain a deeper understanding of the actual message. The additional information and course-change actually seem vital for the logic of the narrative. The fact backed message resonates powerfully. It all just comes together quite beautifully.
Gladwell can write about anything. He will begin with ketchup, and end up with a deep life lesson. He will discuss pollution or some military maneuver, but will really be teaching you something profound about yourself. It is the art of writing about nothing, and yet clearly writing about something that truly matters.
Gladwell has the ability to thread the needle and merge the data with a personal touch. This keeps Gladwell’s avid readers on the edge of their seats, waiting to see how it will all fit perfectly into place.
There’s Always a Story
When writing about content that is data-driven and quite frankly, boring at times, this ability can prove to be an invaluable tool. Just as Seinfeld‘s seemingly boring day to day interactions touched upon deep human emotions and tendencies, so too writers should strive to find real meaning in the numbers. Gladwell’s writing teaches us that data is just a reflection of human action and interaction. There is always an underlying story, some interesting tidbit, a juicy tale, a Soup Nazi. Once you find that nugget, you will have a way to your reader’s heart.
As writers of content marketing materials, this method is truly the heart of it all. When approaching a stack of facts and numbers, one can apply this thought process and find what story these facts tell us. Is there a trend or an anomaly that sticks out? Is there a character trait that causes or drives the data to be as it is? Is there a human quality or flaw at the core of the info? This is what will make sense of everything else written. Find this piece of information, and you will have found gold.
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