Most of the time when I sit down to write a blog post, I start with an idea in mind. Often, it’s an idea that’s been knocking around in my noggin for weeks. My #wordoftheweek posts have only slightly more urgency to them. They spring from ideas that have been in my mind for a few days, sometimes only hours. I write about things that happen, things I think about, things I find funny. Sometimes I write to try to answer a question; sometimes I write to ask a question.
But too often when I sit down to write I’m not asking myself the right question: who is this for?
In a recent blog post, Seth Godin offered this question as a guideline for business professionals and those with marketing messages. Based on his questions, he seems to imagine two categories of people: those who are interested and those who are just passing by. Presumably, the first group is already an audience. They are there looking, if not waiting, for what we have to say. The other group is someone else’s audience, and in order to draw them over, we need to capture their attention.
The problem is, it’s hard to do both at the same time. At least, it’s hard to do both well. Godin pushes a little further to ask what it will take to reach the audience that’s just looking for the next big thing. “What compromises will you need to make? Are they worth it?” he writes.
As a writer, author, editor, writing coach, content marketing specialist, and workshop leader all in one, I am not always sure who my audience is. I’m also not always sure who are the members of someone else’s audience I’m trying to reach. If at all. As a writer, I want an audience I can have a conversation with, an audience who appreciates what I write but also feels appreciated by what I write. As an author, I want an audience who likes what I write enough to buy my books. As an editor, writing coach, and workshop leader, I am looking for an audience of other writers I can encourage and work with on their projects. As a content marketing specialist, I’m looking for companies and organizations who need someone to help them with their message.
But what I do know is that I have an audience already here with me. An audience who reads and comments and buys and hires me. An audience who talks with me about ideas and asks good questions and encourages me and sticks with me. There will always be a potential bigger audience out there. There are always more people to reach, more people to talk to, more people to hire me and buy my books. And over time, I hope we will find each other. But not at the expense of the audience already have.
So I have to ask myself again and again when I write, who is this for? When I write a blog post, who is this for? When I am working on my next book, who is this for? When I am writing a newsletter article for a client, who is this for?
The philosopher in me wants to wrestle with ideas. The artist in me wants to create beauty with words. But the writer in me wants to connect with an audience. The audience I already have. The audience that is YOU.