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What Should You Write?

There’s a tiny point that I don’t want to have get lost inside why I read your blog, and that is a piece of advice that someone gave me while dating that applies to writing too.

There were plenty of ways to meet people while I was single.  Some of them involved attending events where all the people there would be people who were also looking for someone to date; singles events in bars, for instance.  On the surface, attending events like that were ideal because I knew for certain that the people I would meet were looking to date too.  There was actually only one problem with those singles events.

I dislike bars.

Sometimes I would suck it up and go, and sometimes I even met a nice guy and got a date out of it.  But most of the time, I went home frustrated because I had spent two hours doing something I disliked and had nothing to show for it.

On the other hand, I really enjoy sitting in coffeehouses, reading.  It’s what I did most evenings when I was single.

Most of the other people in the coffeehouse I frequented weren’t looking to hook up.  They were meeting friends or going out on dates already or getting work done.  But every so often, I’d fall into a conversation with a guy at the neighbouring table.  And every so often, I would end up with a date from it.  And really, those dates usually led to more dates since the guy and I had something in common: we both liked to read in coffeehouses.

What is the point of all of this?  And how does it apply to writing?

If you do the activities you like to do, you may meet someone great or you may not, but at least it will be time well-spent.  You’ll walk away from the activity feeling fulfilled, and if you meet someone great along the way, that’s the icing on the cake.  You can’t really force meeting someone anyway.  All you can do is put yourself out there so your paths can intersect.

If you write the posts you want to write, you may get readers or you may not, but at least it will be time well-spent.  You’ll walk away from your blog feeling fulfilled.  If nothing else, you’ll have a record of thoughts and some weight off your chest.  And if your words resonate with someone else, that is the icing on the cake.  You can’t force readership.  There is no magical formula where if you write X then you will get Y.  There are no shortcuts.  All you can do is put content out there that resonates with you, and hopefully you will find that it resonates with other people.

Like this post.  I wrote it for me.  To remember this advice lest it gets forgotten someday.  Because I’ve always found it an interesting frame in which to make choices.  Because it’s what I want to say.  Hopefully, it’s also something other people want to read.  But I can’t control for that.

On the other hand, there are plenty of topics I could write about that I think would bring readers.  They don’t really interest me; writing about them would be like attending those bar events.  If the readers didn’t come, I’d be cranky that I had spent my time on those topics.

So I don’t.  I stick to what I want to say, and I stick to reading in coffeehouses.

Both have served me well thus far.

14 comments

1 Kate (Bee In The Bonnet) { 03.23.14 at 9:49 am }

YES. I’ve seen at least a couple of instances of friends who have decided to start a blog as a business, and even though they’re technically writing parenting blogs, knowing that everything (everything…) they write seems to be geared toward garnering the most readers, the most exposure, while also offending absolutely no one, and with the occasional (read: FREQUENT) sponsored post thrown in, I kinda wonder if they have ever thought that they might have more readers, that they wouldn’t have to beg people to read their posts, if they just actually wrote something interesting.

But, then again, if their goal is to make money, that’s a very different goal than creating a community, building bridges, making friends, etc., and one that might not be served as well with authentic (non-sponsored) writing.

Maybe I’m just spoiled by the community here, where I made friends by writing posts that I enjoyed (and by reading/commenting on posts that I enjoyed). My goal, if it had to be defined in such terms, was to share my story and to foster discussion with other people who wanted to share stories, and as a result, I met lots of other people with stories to tell. And it doesn’t seem that this is the case, universally. It’s a bit of the golden rule isn’t it? Behave in a way that garners the outcome you’d prefer (sort of?). If you want to build readership, write things that you’d like to read.

2 Tara { 03.23.14 at 1:56 pm }

This post couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. I’m in the middle of turning over a new blogging leaf and have been contemplating and evaluating and thinking a lot about what I write and why. Am making some changes and this is great advice to kick off my comeback after taking a little break.

3 Aerotropolitan Comitissa { 03.23.14 at 2:12 pm }

Thanks for these thoughts. A little reminder to prioritise properly is good from time to time in all things in life. In blogging I think it’s very easy to focus on stats because they’re concrete and can be seen at a glance and so many people out there are intent on telling you how very important they are. Satisfaction about what you’ve written takes a little more time and reflection.

4 Laurel Regan { 03.23.14 at 2:33 pm }

Yes! Brilliant! This is one of the reasons why I have come to embrace my “nicheless” blog – I can say whatever I want, whatever makes me happy, without worrying about attracting or losing readers or fitting into someone else’s mold of what THEY think should write. And it totally works for me. 🙂

5 Kathy { 03.23.14 at 3:38 pm }

Well said, Mel. xoxo

6 Mali { 03.23.14 at 10:25 pm }

Great reminder for us all. I always find that blog posts that seem to be designed to appeal to a group – or which are basically just some questions under a very provocative blog title – are ultimately unsatisfying. But if the voice is genuine and the words mean something to the author, then I am drawn to it.

7 St. Elsewhere { 03.24.14 at 5:24 am }

You are complete chocolate brownie dipped in chocolate sauce covered with vanilla ice-cream in this post. I love it.

I write what I write because that’s what I want to write. And people like Mina, areyoukiddingme, iiwii and a handful of others make it even more pleasurable.

And I love you.

And I envy that you can write lengthy posts day after day and you don’t get boring.

A commenter quoted her style as ‘nicheless’ which is perfect. A loose boundary, and everything in between is really inclusive too.

8 Sadia { 03.24.14 at 10:45 am }

Yes, yes, yes!! I have continually resisted the push to advertise on the blogs I write for because I fear that doing that would make me start writing for others instead for myself, and I would lose my voice. I’ve been saddened to see a number of bloggers I love turn into voices for touting products. I’ve become Facebook friends with them instead. 🙂

9 Maria { 03.24.14 at 10:59 am }

Fan-friggin-tastic!

10 Hope { 03.24.14 at 11:58 am }

First, I agree with your dating ideas. That’s why I can’t get into online-dating sites or (gag) speed-dating events, however “efficient” they may be. Forcing myself to do these things anyway would mean being led by anxiety about being alone, rather than being led by my heart. Not a great foundation for building a relationship.

Now that you mention it, yes, the same thing can be true of blogging. When I was new here, I clicked just about every link on this page, including your post about how to build a huge blog following. From that post, the one bit of advice I remember was to “need your space.”

I have never needed a space so badly in my life. I’ve never had so much to say about one topic or so few places to say it in the offline world. The day I stop being passionate about it, I hope I’ll go find something else to be passionate about!

11 Elisha { 03.25.14 at 10:43 am }

Hi from ICLW. This post was perfect for me. Often times I find myself wanting to write about certain things but then don’t because I know no one wants to read them. But I need to remember that I write for me…no one else.

Thank you!!

waitingforbabybird.com

12 Battynurse { 03.25.14 at 12:33 pm }

Great post and so very true. I could apply this to blogging for sure. I think I finally started to unconsciously apply this to life in general a few years ago. I’m doing things I enjoy and not constantly dwelling on maybe meeting someone or all that entails. Yes I’m still single but I’ve enjoyed myself to the point that this doesn’t bother me anymore.

13 Lori Lavender Luz { 03.26.14 at 6:48 pm }

Thank you for this reminder. With all the talk of branding and monetizing and stats and growth and SEO, sometimes it’s easy to back-burner the simple pleasure of blogging for the sake of writing and connecting.

14 Valery Valentina { 03.28.14 at 3:11 pm }

My blog is my (pseudonymous) diary. The few commenters mean everything, and I avoid even looking at my stats because I get the uncomfortable feeling of Peeping Toms. The only reason to look up stats would be to make sure I am not ‘outed’.

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