I’ve been writing and blogging for so long that I’m tempted to forget a crucial truth to success. Maybe you have, too.
What’s that truth?
You need to write for yourself first and second for your audience.
For those of us who write for money or to change the world, this can be admittedly tough. But it is the only way that you can be true to your art — the only way that your writing can have the impact you dream of.
Writing for a response can be a great way to hone your skills as a writer — to find out what your audience wants and how to provide. It can help you make a living out of our writing. But before you start worrying about building an audience or platform, you need to write for yourself.
Ironically, this is the best way for you to serve your audience.
Here are three reasons why writing for yourself is essential to success:
1. It releases you from the temptation to entertain.
You are not a comedian. You are a writer. You create prose to challenge, compel, or convert. But you don’t write to entertain (If you do, feel free to skip this post).
If you are truly communicating — and not merely entertaining — you need to challenge people. Which means making them uncomfortable. Which means sometimes bucking the system and pushing the status quo.
How can you do that if you’re constantly worried about pleasing everyone?
You can’t. If you are to write what you need to write, you must free yourself from the limitations of what your audience expects. You must break off the bondage of an audience — at least for a moment — to craft something that will truly make a difference.
Trust me, your audience will thank you. (Some day.)
2. It allows you to be honest and transparent in your writing.
People naturally gravitate towards authenticity. Conversely, they resist anything (or anyone) that seems disingenuous.
By writing from the heart — and not for the impact or the profit — you will win true fans, a tribe that will defend you and champion your cause. All because you bore your scars and chose to be yourself.
It’s not easy, but it’s necessary to making a real connection with your audience. And it’s hard to be yourself if you’re constantly trying to impress or entertain.
Choose to be authentic; it’ll feel more natural for you, and it will cause your readers to let their guards down.
Again, they will thank you for it.
3. It gives you a chance to communicate your unique message.
Face it. It’s tempting to try to write like Leo Babauta or Chris Brogan or even Seth Godin. (It is for me, anyway.)
But we already have those guys. What we’re missing is you. We need your voice.
And if you’re writing to impress or entertain or even emulate, we may lose that crucial piece in your writing — the distinctiveness of you.
There is a story that only you can tell. It is your story alone. And you begin to tap into by being yourself, by writing first for you. The paradox of all this, of course, is that the truer you are to your voice and message, the more you will attract a true tribe of followers committed to you.
Do you write for yourself or others? Why?