To attract a large Audience, be a Selfish Writer

WritingYes, here we go again: another plea to be a selfish writer. I know I’ve banged on about this a number of times, but I only do so because it’s the biggest hurdle to so may writers.

It’s like we have this in-built mechanism to try and please others. I get that. I have it myself. But you have to try and make that feeling go away as much as possible. Write for yourself.

Author or works such as Slaughterhouse Five and Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut once said: “Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.”

Yeah, he had a way with words. I’ve worked as a radio broadcaster for pretty much my whole working life. A professional presenter knows they’re talking to one person, and phrases their response accordingly, in a subtle way. Statistically the vast majority of people who listen to the radio do so alone. Talking to “you all out there” makes the show and alienating experience, the opposite of what you want. Writing as per Vonnegut’s advice is similar. Pretty much every reader does the activity alone, unless you’re maybe reading a bedtime story with your kids.

It’s about writing for yourself or for one person — never write for the sake of following a trend. Strunk and White spelt this out very poetically in Elements of Style: “Start sniffing at the air, or glancing at the trend machine, and you are as good as dead, although you may make a nice living.”

Don’t write what’s “hip”. Write what you love. If you write it with passion and energy, chances are, you won’t be alone: others will feel that way about the work too. If you write what you feel you “should”, then that energy and enthusiasm could well die out. If you don’t really care about the work your writing, why will any reader?

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