I was stumped.
It had to be just the right adjective. The one that would launch a thousand retweets.
The one that would make the headline bark out “READ ME”!!!
I thought, and thought, and thought.
“Enduring”? Nah, I didn’t want the wrong connotation (i.e. “to endure the post”)
“Lasting”? Nope. It just didn’t look good.
“Rock Solid”? Negative. Been there, done that.
I finally settled on “sustainable”, and then hit “publish”.
As I prepped the post for later broadcasting on Twitter, I looked at the headline again.
I had fiddled around so much with a single word that I forgot about the rest of it.
Reading it out loud, it gave off the exact opposite connotation than I intended.
I had to change it, again, and by doing so I had fallen prey to something I swore I’d never succumb to.
The “Obsessive-Compulsive Headline Writing Disorder”.
That is, in a nutshell, putting the cart before the horse. I cared more about the headline than the content itself. And worse, I way over-thought it, and it still didn’t end up being a very good headline. That’s where this disorder starts to hurt.
Now, don’t get me wrong here – I know headlines are important in a world where everything is shrinking to 140 character bursts.
Of course I want you to read my stuff, so I need to draw you in. However, it’s a Pyrrhic victory if I dazzle you with a headline, you click through, and then read something that doesn’t live up to its promise.
In that case, I may have won a click, but I probably lost a reader.
Nonetheless, that perfectly good logic can get tossed aside when your ego starts flaring up.
“I want more! More visits! Higher rankings! Massive Twitter followers! Yes, Yes, Yes!!!”
Bad, bad, and more bad.
The minute I hit “send” on that post, after all that dithering, I realized that quantity was creeping up dangerously to quality, fueled by the ego and their old and dear companions, fear and envy.
As I write this, it is several days after that post, and rather than let this disorder fester, I had to come to terms with it, and by doing so, share what I’ve learned with you.
I want to help people (and myself) and build relationships. There’s nothing in there about writing the perfect headline that will get 100,000 hits.
There’s the big lesson. It’s going back to why I started doing this in the first place. Instead of thinking “What headline (and thus content) can I write that will be the most popular”, it just has to be “What can I write today that can help my readers and perhaps, help me?”
Writing a good headline is still part of the deal, as well as any other SEO strategy designed to get your post noticed – but it cannot take precedence over the content.
I know, you’re thinking, “Well golly Terry, isn’t that obvious?” Yes it is, when you are thinking rationally, as I’m sure you are as you are reading this post, and as I usually am when I’m not obsessing over a headline.
However, consider those situations where you are sitting in front of your screen, fresh from a few hours on Twitter marveling at the creative power of those “rock stars” drawing hundreds of retweets and tens of thousands of hits, subconsciously envious, tapping into a supposedly long-gone childhood need for acceptance, and fearing that cannot happen unless you too get that kind of attention.
Ah, you’ve been there too?