empty-audience

Stop writing for your target audience

You really need to stop writing your blog for your “target audience.”

Yes, I know that this is counter to every bit of advice that you hear these days, but I believe that thinking about who might read what you write and what they might think can contribute to a form of “stage fright”. No one wants to be judged; and its easy to talk yourself out of a topic when you start asking yourself if anyone would care or be interested.

Write for yourself.

You should write about the things that interest you. It will be easier to write about topics in which you are knowledgeable and for which you have passion. You will have a never ending list of subjects to explain, rant about, or stuff to review. If you free yourself from the mental chains of your readers, you will find yourself more expressive, creative and your writing will be more free-flowing.

Ironically, you will also find that “they who should not be named” will like reading about these topics too. People can smell a “forced” topic a mile off and don’t want to read something that has clearly been engineered. Your passion for a topic will emanate from your writing and everyone will be better off as a result. Win-win.

Practice makes perfect.

Getting started is sometimes the hardest part for those of us who don’t write for a living; yet the more your write, the easier it will become. Have you ever procrastinated about sitting down to write and then once you started, the words just poured out? Well, that first hurdle lowers with practice.

There is a concept called deliberate practice which basically states that expertise is achieved through expert practice. It is about repetition but with the specific goal of improving performance – the quality of the practice is the key.

But any improvement is impossible without clocking the hours you will need to get better . So think about your writing as practice and not a performance. Feel free to make mistakes, experiment and get better. In the grand scheme of things, a few squeaks or missed notes will not matter to anyone.

Teaching is understanding.

The best way to understand a topic is to be able to explain it. Use your writing to do just that. You don’t need to be a true expert on a topic. Read, learn and then teach it. The process of explaining a topic will actually help you better understand it and so it’s another win-win.

There are a few studies that all support this approach.  For example, a 2010 study by University of California at Berkeley professor Joseph Williams demonstrated that people are much better at latching onto “deeper explanations” when they are forced to produce them for others.  This is called “Self-explanation” and amongst other benefits – helps translate explicit knowledge into explicit know-how, helps you identify and fix knowledge gaps and also forces you to process what you are trying to explain more deeply than learning alone.

Which means that writing out an explanation of some new technique, observation or concept will actually help your own understanding. You don’t need a single person to read what you’ve written for you to benefit; the process of explaining it to others is your own reward.

Tough love.

And so stop thinking about your target audience. Write what you want and about topics that interest you and you will become a better writer, you will have a deeper understanding of the topics that interest you, and.. you may actually gain an interested audience in the process.

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