I’ve heard, “Just write what you want. Your readers will find you.”
My response, “Balderdash!” I’ll explain.
I wrote this with you in mind. I considered my word choice, the sentence cadence and the emotions you’d feel. Not because it’s marketable or because some guru said so, but because I believe that’s what purposeful writing is.
Are you still with me? Writing does have personal cathartic value, but that’s not why I write. My writing begins in my heart and mind. Yes, it’s personal. But if that writing isn’t transformed into something more, I might as well keep a journal.
Why Should You Consider the Reader?
If I want my words to matter to someone else, I have to make sure that they’re more than monologues. Powerful and publishable works are transformed into dialogues. Imagine at least one person from your audience across the table discussing the same issues, turning the last page, or buying the items on your flyer. Solid writing is taking something that’s important to you and finding ways to make it important to the your readership. That’s success.
Think of your personal blog, story or article as building materials and then use the tools and supplies you have to build bridges to those who need them. Your finished work may look different from your original plans. That’s all right. It will have power because you built purpose into its design.
I put effort into what I put on the page. Most writers do, but it makes no sense to me to write, rewrite, and polish a final draft without ever considering who will see it shine.
Where are Writing Skills and Ideas Formed?
The most relatable ideas often come from brainstorming with other creative folks. I also hear people say things like:
“Don’t let anyone change your style. Don’t alter how you write or adjust your methods. Just write who you are.”
While there is some (backward) wisdom in this, here’s the truth. You cannot develop your creativity and refine your writing skills in a vacuum. Read that sentence as many times as it takes to sink in. You can’t take 20 years in a cabin in the woods to discover who you are, and then hope your will words touch someone.
You learn skill and develop creative ideas from meeting people. Creativity is found and learning flows from conversations, events, and life circumstances. You study, read, and observe. You absorb, adjust, and improve along the way. Being purposeful means having a spirit that’s willing to learn from those who are successful. It might even mean investing in some of their works so you can have them on your shelf to study. I’ve learned from many sources. It isn’t about being the writer you are now, as much as it is discovering the one you can become.
I’m not the writer I was five years ago, and I hope the same holds true for the next five.
How Do You Find Feedback for Your Work?
When you let people read your words they’ll let you know whether your idea is clearly communicated, and that is priceless. Let several people read your work, not just a friend or a family member. Any reader can tell you if they understood what you were saying.
If your reader asks you to explain part of your manuscript, it’s likely you didn’t communicate that section well. Especially if it takes more words to explain what you wrote than the words you put on the page.
Consider all critique, but particularly from trained professionals in your field. Remember you’re always in control. You can accept all or none of the suggestions, but the first step is getting enough feedback to work with.
However, be cautious…
Who Are You Going to Trust?
The people who you trust should not try to change your work significantly. They should help you fine tune it, making it the most relatable it can be. When working with an editor, if certain words or phrases don’t sound like you, let them know. If they aren’t respecting your writing voice, then it’s okay to use your voice to say so. If you allow too many changes, it won’t sound like you. And you won’t be able to duplicate it next time.
This is also priceless. When you find someone who can do this, keep them around.
How Can You Deal with Negativity?
You may deal with some negativity during the critique and editing process. This process can take a long time for a book, but less time for shorter works. Additional negativity can come once your work is out there. But don’t end the conversation when your work is published, because now you can continue the dialogue. You get to see who your bridges reached and hear what they thought of crossing them.
Remember, how your piece comes across to a certain reader is their experience and you have no control over that. You can use constructive criticism to consider how you might improve. Even comments that come across as negative can still have some nugget of truth to help you improve. Ask yourself, “What was the reader looking for that they didn’t get?”
But, if someone dumps on your work and provides nothing helpful, forget it. Don’t give the person control over you. Squeeze a stress ball, pop some bubble wrap or use those emotions to write something new. Take a moment, but then learn to let it go. That person wasn’t your audience, but if you don’t lash out at their criticism, maybe they could be at another time.
Will You Continue the Conversation?
Those who enjoy what you write will offer the most encouragement. Look for, and respond to the comments that speak to the specifics of what your readers like about your writing. Publishing your manuscript whether on a blog, in a magazine, or for any other purpose is risky, scary, and sometimes lonely. The grand payoff is hearing back from others that your words accomplished what you intended. So, who are you writing for? Addressing that question will help your words accomplish their purpose. Thanks for reading a few of mine. I’d love to hear what you thought. Until next time, write on.