Many people who deal with complex ideas can be impossible to understand. Einstein was unique in this respect. His approach was actually one that emphasized simplicity, usefulness, and flexibility—all qualities that are essential in any good blog post.
So if you’re working to improve your blogging skills, keep Einstein in mind, specifically these lessons:
1. Even complex ideas can be expressed simply
Many people say that their topic is too dense or complicated to express in a blog post. Or that they couldn’t possibly explain what they do to “non-experts.” Einstein would have disagreed. “Most of the fundamental ideas of science are essentially simple,” he wrote, “and may, as a rule, be expressed in a language comprehensible to everyone.” And this coming from a guy who articulated the Theory of Relativity.
The bottom line is that there is no topic too complex for a simple and understandable blog post. It may be difficult to do, but it can be done. In fact, for many of us, that’s what makes writing a blog post fun.
What’s the difference between making something simple and “dumbing it down?” To this Einstein might say, “Everything should be as simple as it can be, but not simpler.”
2. Something doesn’t have to be long to be good
During Einstein’s Annus Mirabilis, or “miracle year” in 1905, he published four articles that basically changed the course of modern physics. One of those articles, Does the Inertia of a Body Depend upon its Energy Content? contained his game-changing equation E=mc2. This article was only three pages long. Three pages! The lesson here is that you don’t have to write page after page to make an important point. A blog post at 800-1500 words, written well, can be more than enough space to make a strong point or argument.
3. Ideas can come from anywhere
Here is a photograph of Einstein’s desk. The man had papers, books, thoughts, piled everywhere, all around him. He famously said, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”
In terms of blogging, keep your mind open to ideas from any quarter. Don’t just read the same sources over and over again. Surround yourself with different ideas from different places. You never know when inspiration might strike.
4. Be yourselfIn 1946, at the height of his career, Einstein exchanged several letters with a young girl who wanted to be a scientist. In one of her letters she wrote:
“I forgot to tell you, in my last letter, that I was a girl. I mean I am a girl. I have always regretted this a great deal, but by now I have become more or less resigned to the fact.”
Einstein wrote back:
“I do not mind that you are a girl, but the main thing is that you yourself do not mind.”
It’s a reminder that we cannot (and should not) try to change who we are. Today, there is so much pressure to cultivate your online presence to reflect only a certain image. But Einstein reminds us that people actually want to see the authentic version of you—in your photos, in your posts, in your writing in general. The important thing is to be comfortable in your own skin and not try to pretend that you are something you’re not. It’s a challenge, but it results in much better writing.
5. Know your audienceOne thing Einstein really excelled at was writing appropriately for different audiences. He didn’t just blather on regardless of who was reading. Compare his conversations on the tension between science and religion; first, with Indian philosopher Tagore, and then, with a 6th grader. Same topic, very different approach.
It's also striking that in the letter to the 6th grader, he doesn’t gloss over how challenging or important her question is (in other words he hardly “dumbs it down”, see point #1).
Blogging is no different. You can write for different audiences at different times (colleagues, experts, customers, friends), and each instance might warrant a different approach. There is no one-size-fits-all explanation. So know who you are writing for before you start.
6. Remember the importance of storytellingWhen a woman asked Professor Einstein what she could do to make her son a successful scientist, he purportedly answered, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairytales. If you want them to be very intelligent, read them more fairytales.”
Einstein, who always hated the strict, drill-based schooling of his youth, recognized that one of the best ways to keep someone engaged is to tell them stories.
The same is true for blogging. You can write Top 10 Lists ‘til you’re blue in the face, but if you really want your message to stay with someone, tell them a story about why it’s important.
*The anecdote of the woman who asked Einstein this question might be a piece of folklore itself, but hey, it makes for a better story.
7. Focus first on creating good content, not on “success”Einstein emphasized again and again in his writings the importance of doing something well. Not for the promise of success or applause, but because of the inherent value of the task at hand. “Strive not to be a success,” he said, “but rather to be of value.”
This idea is at the very foundation of content marketing. Provide something useful and interesting, and people will start to come to you. Rather than focusing just on the right key words or the right title that could make something go viral, take a step back. Focus on creating high-quality, useful posts that are helpful to your readers in some way. That is what will keep them coming back.
A universal strategy
There are many more lessons you could take from Einstein and his writing. For me, the most encouraging one is that strategies for clear, useful writing are essentially universal—they can apply to a Nobel Laureate as well as to someone writing their own blog. They can apply to someone writing in the early twentieth century, or someone writing one hundred years later.
Einstein probably could have used some help writing better headlines (Concerning an Heuristic Point of View Toward the Emission and Transformation of Light isn’t exactly catchy) but his basic approach to writing might have taken him far in today’s online culture. The medium may change, but the best practices stay the same.
Content Editor at Jimdo
Maggie joined the team to craft the voice of Jimdo for all products and marketing channels. In her previous work, she edited for organizations covering the environment, cities, and sustainable business. When she's not adding serial commas, you can find her camping with her husband, cooking, and reading New Scientist.