I spend a lot of time in forums and groups for writers. I want to know what makes them tick. I want to learn about their struggles so I can help them. I want to explore the landscape.
I’ll come across a struggling writer. They wonder why nobody’s reading their blog. They’re frustrated because they’re doing the work—writing, and writing a lot.
But something’s missing.
9.9 times out of 10 these writers are making the same mistake. If you’re struggling to find readers, you might be making it, too.
Here it is:
Your blog is not your personal journal.
If you want to document your personal life online, that’s fine, but don’t expect it to resonate with other people.
Yes, you need to tell stories. Yes, you need to share your personality. But if you make it all about you, nobody will care.
The same can be said for the topics you write about. There’s an audience for many types of writing, but don’t be shocked if people aren’t racing to read your 17th century historical fiction blog or your haiku.
Write about what you want to write about, but know that certain ways of writing and subjects simply aren’t as appealing as others.
You can be authentic, unique, and sincere, but your writing has to do one of these three things to succeed.
Your writing isn’t just in competition with other writing, it’s also in competition with “movies, apps and free high definition pornography,” says bestselling author Ryan Holiday.
People love to be entertained. Life can be mundane, even painful. People need an outlet to escape from time to time. If your writing provides that, people will pay attention.
There are several ways to entertain people with your writing:
• Tell compelling stories
• Make them laugh
• Say things most people wouldn’t normally say
Your writing is for you, but if you want people to read it, it has to do something for them, too.
“How to” posts are popular for a reason. People like learning new things. If you can help people improve an area of their life, they’ll appreciate your work.
There’s no need to try to be an expert.
Share what you know about a certain subject people want to learn about.
Share “advice as autobiography,” as James Altucher puts it. Meet people where they are and share what you’ve learned through experience.
Giving advice atop a pedestal reeks of insincerity. Don’t lecture. Share.
People love feeling inspired. Ephemeral as it can be, inspiration lifts people up from their darkness, gives them hope, and every once in a while, leads to true change in their lives.
You don’t have to be a “rah-rah,” cheerleader type, but if you can find a way to lift people up with your words, your readers will come back for more.
I wasn’t always an author.
I used to be a near drug addict, a womanizer, an alcoholic—not much of a good person at all.
At one point I had enough of the depression and darkness and looked for sources of inspiration.
I started hanging out with more positive people, read inspirational books, listened to TED talks, and the inspiration I drew from these sources helped me become a better person.
Inspiration isn’t a substitute for work.
I still had to take action, but it started with inspiration.
When used wisely, giving the gift of inspiration helps people change for the better. Find a way to use your experiences to help others make a change in themselves.
The pros, the writers we all admire, manage to do all three at once.
Great writing is alchemy—you take bits of entertainment, mix in some education, and add a dash of inspiration in order to create remarkable work.
Writers are like chefs. We all have the same ingredients available to us. The ones who set themselves apart master the mixture of these ingredients.
With practice, it can be done. Tinker. Play around with the elements. Repeat the process. You can master the craft of writing. I’m convinced that talent doesn’t mean much when it comes to being successful at anything.
You may never become a Hemingway, Vonnegut, Rowling, or George RR Martin, but if you commit to the craft while also paying attention to your readers, you’ll become a bonafide wordsmith.
I continue to repeatedly learn the same lesson when it comes to writing:
You’ll never be successful until you get out of your own way.
The next time you publish something and it falls flat, ask yourself if it contained any of these elements of successful writing. Chances are it doesn’t. Don’t fret. Go back to the drawing board. Use these ingredients as your checklist.
Your favorite writer had to grow into the writer they’ve become.
You have to grow, too. Keep going.