take the focus off of yourself

{how to keep writing when you feel uninspired, part one}

intropart twopart three


“I don’t feel like I have anything worth saying.”
“Who am I to think people would want to read what I write?”
“I’m not a very good writer yet.”

When I focus on what I’m writing and why I think I shouldn’t share it, my inspiration dies a slow death. My ego is not strong enough to keep me writing, and I probably won’t write things that will resonate with my audience if I’m thinking about myself more than them.

How can you know what will resonate with your readers?

First you need to figure out what sort of person you want to attract to read what you write. Who is your “target audience,” your “ideal reader?” You can’t reach everyone. In fact, if your target is everyone you will likely hit no one. It may seem counter-intuitive on the surface, but if you narrow your focus to one person, you will reach more people at a deeper level than if you try to write to “every man”. If you write to one person, when she reads what you’ve written it will resonate so deeply with her that she’ll want to read more. Then she’ll be excited to share what you’ve written with people like herself, because even though you kept one single person in your mind while you were writing, there are really many people who will resonate with what you’ve written. Yet each of them will feel like you’re writing directly to them. You will no longer be just another writer in the sea of people putting their words out into the world, you’ve now become the writer who cares about her and what she wants to read.

But wait, how are you supposed to figure out what people want to read? Do I expect you to read minds? Well, sort of. A simple way to “read someone’s mind,” or find out what’s going on inside their head, is to ask them! You can ask your readers directly — send an email, make a phone call, start a thread on social media. Ask them what they’re looking for, and then write that.

You can also sleuth out the answer through observation. What topics are popular? What are your readers (or the kind of readers you want to attract) discussing online? Spend some time in-person with the kind of people you want to write for. What are they talking about? What are they already reading? Don’t copy, but do look for themes and patterns. Then take it a step further — what gaps can you find that you can fill with your writing? The next article in this series, {write about problems}, covers this idea in more detail.

When you shift the focus off of yourself and onto your readers, writing becomes a way you can serve. Now that you’re focused on people’s wants and needs, you have a responsibility to share what you can in order to help them. Focusing on that means that you don’t have to worry about your writing being perfect — imperfect communication still helps people.

So start helping people. Share what you have that they need. Write for them.