Knowing who your readers are is important. But there is a chicken-egg type of conundrum when considering your audience as a writer. Does your audience already exist and all you have to do is reach them wherever they are? Or does what you write, based on your interests and experiences, build your audience?
Should I write for myself to build my audience?
If I write for myself to build my audience, I feel like I’m following the advice given in the 1989 film, Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come.”; which seems… like I’m chasing ghosts, to be honest.
If I write whatever I want whenever I want, without a thought for reading audiences that already exist out there, will readers be attracted to my writing? Will my interests and passion inspire writing that’s interesting and comprehensive and consistent enough? Or will my writing just be all over the place and deter a solid following? I ask this because, like many writers, I have way too many interests to pick just one to write about. But I also know if I get too niche-specific, I will get bored and essentially not be able to produce writing that contains my authentic voice.
No reader likes reading anything that is forced and cookie-cutter and doesn’t contain an authentic voice. At least, not for long. And definitely not on a consistent basis.
I am also not self-absorbed enough to write only for myself. Sure, I have a healthy enough ego to write in general. But what’s the point of only writing for myself, especially in a public forum? Understanding who your potential and real audiences are is tantamount when writing. It can keep your writing grounded and consistent, and help you build an authentic voice–an authentic voice people want to read.
So, should I write only for you to build my audience?
Should I write for you to build my audience?
I would answer “yes” to this question… but with a large footnote.
First, it’s important to note that if I write only for you, dear reader, I risk losing sight of what interests me and what I’m passionate about. And if this happens, I risk losing my authentic voice which will evolve in one way or another over the years if I am clinging to my human nature.
Without an authentic voice applied to it, any writing will fall flat, and will likely be incredibly boring. And I don’t want to bore you, or any potential readers. Ever.
There’s a lot of data out there telling you and me who our audiences are. It’s telling me who I should write for and which keywords to use and topics I should write about. But if I follow the data too closely, I’m treating that existing audience as if it’s full of people who have fixed ideas and interests that will never evolve, or people who never want to learn or be surprised. I’ll essentially be treating them as if they’re, you’re, just a number, a statistic, a fixed data point. And I can’t bring myself to think of my audience this way, holistically. Or myself as a writer.
I hope my writing always evolves yet remains human, that I always tackle new and interesting topics but cling to my authentic voice. For both you, and myself.
I should write for you and me.
Ultimately, a balance needs to be achieved. I need to write for you, and myself. Because if I don’t write about anything you care about, you won’t read what I write. That’s understandable. But if I don’t write about what I care about, I will lose my authentic voice, and no one will read what I write anyway.
Passion alone can’t fuel a writer’s arsenal long-term. Passion fades. But neither can data. Because data changes and should evolve over time as well, especially if it’s data about human beings who are also readers.
It seems as if this isn’t a chicken-egg conundrum after all, then. Your audience doesn’t already exist in its entirety, but neither does your authentic voice as a writer without your audience. They need to be built and developed together simultaneously, and should continually be evolving and balancing each other out.
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