By Shahnaz Radjy
What is a content diet, and why is it important for writers?
“We have begun to live in a world, where we eat content, drink content and breathe content, without giving a single thought to its composition and what kind of impact it has upon our lives.”―
On the first episode of “The Digital Writing Podcast,” a fascinating conversation with Stephanie Smith about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) put a new-to-me concept on my radar: the idea of a “content diet.”
Most of us are online every day, and what we consume – articles, Tweets, podcasts, videos, endless scrolling on our social media feeds – that’s our content diet.
That’s true for anyone who spends time online. However, as a writer, there are two addiction considerations for what I consume:
- Each time I read, watch, or scroll influences what’s in my brain and what comes out of it.
- The time I spend consuming content is time I am not creating content.
The good news is that, awareness is an essential first step.
So, now that we know what a content diet is and why it matters to us as writers what next?
Awareness, intention, and commitment to the right diet for you
“Are you filling your head with empty calories?”―
When it comes to food, I am against “diets.” First, every time I think to myself anything even close to “I’ll go easy on desserts,” my brain then goes “DESSERT DESSERT DESSERT” and teams up with my stomach to make a joke of my decision.
Second, life is too short not to enjoy dessert.
But when it comes to content, I thought it was at least worth thinking about and being intentional about what I did and what I consumed. Because even if I don’t like diets, mindless scrolling for hours on end is a no-go. Talk about life being too short!
Limit your intake by decreasing other’s content
Steph has a hard rule about her content diet: on Twitter, for example, she limits herself to following 100 accounts. If there’s a new profile she comes across and wants to follow, she forces herself to go through the accounts she already follows to delete one.
Her logic is sound: the more noise there is, the harder it is to appreciate the content. She, like the rest of us, don’t have time to scroll through a zillion updates by thousands of users.
I thought about it. Did I want to take on a similar approach – whether limiting myself to 100, 200, or even 500 accounts I followed? And if I embraced this format for Twitter, shouldn’t I do the same for Instagram?
Over the next few weeks, I weighed the idea of following new profiles more carefully. And then, I decided that quantitatively limiting myself wasn’t my jam.
The pros of not counting content calories & going broad
Here’s my logic: the way my brain works, I thrive on casting a wide net. Every fiber of my being is hungry for knowledge, ideas, and stories. I’ve never been good at fitting in a box or matching a specific label.
Do you know me as a wedding celebrant? Well, I also work part-time for the United Nations. Are you a colleague? Maybe you don’t know that I also write and am working on a children’s book, two novels, and a memoir.
What’s more, ideas that I hear about on a podcast about tantric sex may apply to my relationship with my husband; they might also provide unexpected insight into a character arc I struggled with. Or perhaps a concept I discovered through an article about how innovation works might solve an issue I was struggling with on the farm.
Without a doubt, everything I hear and learn is precious fodder for stories.
This doesn’t mean I am not considerate about which accounts to follow; I am. I check profiles and recent posts to make sure the style speaks to me. So, while I try to avoid only like-minded content and strive to diversify the content I consume, I still apply a filter to ensure I’m not spamming myself.
How to avoid oversaturation and getting overwhelmed
The flip side of going broad is that it can lead to too much content – if you’re trying to keep up.
Therefore, my approach is to try and be mindful about when and how I consume content. I’ll scroll through Instagram and Twitter in the evening when I get in bed, looking for new ideas and great content. This is also my time to read, so I have an incentive that works for me not to scroll endlessly: books await (and I make sure my reading list is diverse, too!).
Over time, I also decided that most newsletters tend to crowd my inbox, so I am merciless about unsubscribing. If I open a few updates and don’t get excited about them, I’d rather follow an organization on Twitter than have uninspiring updates show up in my inbox. Also, Twitter is a smorgasbord that I can enjoy, whereas my inbox is a bit more sacred (this is very much still a work in progress!).
In other words, while I am still figuring out and will likely be adjusting my content diet forever, knowing I am intentional about it is enough for me.
What’s your content diet, and why does it matter to you as a writer?
I know you’re bombarded by vast amounts of information, too. Do you ever feel overwhelmed by all the news, reports, how-tos, and advice? Have you had to limit the number of people you follow?
Do you have a specific approach to your content diet? If so, can you describe what works (or doesn’t work) for you in a comment? Thanks.
Shahnaz is an adventurer, foodie, bookworm, and horse-lover. She is a freelance writer based in Portugal as well as the co-founder of an eco-tourism project.
Alumni of the World Economic Forum and the University of Pennsylvania. Shahnaz has lived in Geneva/Switzerland, Philadelphia/USA, La Paz/Bolivia, and New York/USA.
http://casabeatrix.pt/ shows the adventurous spirit of Shahnaz and her husband, François. First, they traveled the world working on farms to hone their skills, and since 2017 have been in Portugal. They bought an old farm in 2018, and are turning their biggest dream into an unforgettable farm / nature / disconnect-to-reconnect experience they would love to share with you.
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