Have you ever started with a topic that seemed clear but the more you tried to write the muddier your message got?
One reason this happens is that you start with a specific angle or message but as you research and write, you broaden your focus. You try to make room for a full range of circumstances so you can cover more bases and broaden your audience.
The more general the topic becomes, the more you lose direction. And the more you get lost, the less authority your readers hear.
Say I want to write about the opioid epidemic, and specifically about people who got addicted by recreational use. If I stick to talking about that group, I can write firmly about poor decision-making and taking personal responsibility.
But, if I loosen the grip on my topic and expand to include people who got addicted because of medical treatment, I have to soften my stance and write a different type of article.
Then, if I get convinced that I need to consider babies who are born addicted, my focus shifts again, so the direction of my article has to change again.
Writers often believe, or are told, that they need to address all sides of a topic. That’s not true, and it’s not wise.
Furthermore, in a case like recreational addicts versus medical-use addicts, that’s not two sides of a story. That’s two different stories, and each has its own set of facts and considerations.
Trying to bring them together gets muddy because you have to write in such broad and general terms that you can’t contribute anything meaningful and fresh.
All-inclusive writing is a plague, and it’s killing a lot of peoples’ work. Too many writers inflate their topics going after the mass appeal and end up without any appeal.
They wonder why their work doesn’t stand out, why they can’t establish a name, or why no one remembers what they said. It’s because they’re over-generalizing. Doing that tames your writing and often makes a topic unmanageable.
When you’re writing and your topic starts getting muddy, chances are you’re mixing too much in. Go back to your original purpose and your original message and remove all the parts causing you to stray from your point.
The more you control your aim, the clearer your writing will be.