I’m fortunate enough to have grown up as a nobody who’d had a day job that involved public speaking.
What that taught me was that if I were to talk to a crowd of strangers, I better damn well have something interesting to say, lest I end up talking to a disinterested audience for however long it is I’m slated to talk.
You know the signs: the vacant stares suggesting that they’ve checked out and are now thinking about dinner, the ones with their faces lit up by their phones, the yawns, the coughs, and worst of all, the murmurs as they totally disregard your talk and conduct ones of their own.
Sure, it sucks, but you know what? You can’t force someone to listen to you, especially if you don’t bring value into their lives, and that’s exactly what we’re going to talk about today.
What’s your point?
As an avid scroller of the WordPress Reader, I’ve realised that the thing that gets me to click on posts are a nice picture, an interesting title, and a great opener that really draws me in.
So you can be sure I’ll be clicking on posts that start with “As a writer, it is important to get into the mindset of being an artist…” and avoid those whose first sentences are “Best CopyEditing Services. Make money SEO. Best Writing.”
Of course, these are extreme examples, but it does bring to light an important question you should ask yourself before starting on a post, and that’s “What’s my point?”
For instance, my intended purpose for this article is to entertain you for a few minutes, to get you to relax a little. It certainly isn’t to impart my wisdom of the ages. You might have to wait a couple more decades for that.
But I don’t have a point!
So you think your life’s boring, and that nobody could possibly care what you have to say, and you might be right.
But that’s good! Because that shows that you’re self-aware enough to know that you can’t just post pictures of your lunch and expect people to leave your site feeling like they’ve attained anything of value.
If you’re still at a loss on what to write though, you can be sure to give your readers a better time if you remember to do either one of these three things, which are share, entertain, or inspire.
It’s that simple
That’s really it. No matter what niche you’re in, what your story’s about, or whether or not it’s fictional, you’ll be doing your readers a huge favour if you first seek out to share, entertain, or inspire them with your story.
Of course, if you’re in a position to inspire, you’ll always want to do that. Have a great rags to riches story? Opened the door into the career of your dreams? Lost eighty pounds? Then you already have a goldmine of stories right there. Stories with a ready audience.
Or maybe you have a way with words, yet you don’t really have much in the way of unique life experiences. Then look to entertain your readers. You can always craft a story and whisk your readers away from the real world for a few minutes, and make life better for others, one person at a time.
What if you really have nothing interesting—which is a pretty common ailment for writers, impostor syndrome and all—to say? What if you think your hobbies are boring? What if you hate your writing? Then share.
The magic of sharing
I don’t care who you are or what you do, but I refuse to believe that you have nothing to share that’s not uniquely yours.
You could talk about that new book you’re reading, or the little patch of flowers you’re trying to grow in your backyard. Heck, you can even write about how you did nothing and it still would be interesting if you had a point to share.
Even if someone’s written about doing nothing before, you could still do the same while taking a whole new angle.
For one person, that could be her wanting to overcome her anxiety of the outside world, and that idling at home today was the last straw that led her to that decision. For another, it could be a story about his social media detox, about finding his centre in this world of information overload.
“Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everyone I’ve ever known.”
Perhaps the most important part about sharing is that you make it worth your readers’ while. There has to be a reason why you’re mentioning your latest foray into philately, or that your dog prefers meat to kibble.
If there’s one takeaway you get from this piece, it should be exactly that—you need to give your readers a takeaway at the end of each story.
Also, you don’t need to be Hemingway to do this. But if you keep writing, you could very well be. Now what do you say you get started on that next draft?
Walk a step in their shoes
In the end, writing stories that people want to read is just about putting yourself in your readers’ shoes. What would you like to read? Surely, it’s not a vignette about somebody brushing their teeth at 10:55 a.m.?
Asking yourself that question is always a good way to get the ideas rolling. What makes you click on an article? What is it about your ideal story that piques your interest? Write that.
Leave the thoughts of emulating your favourite authors behind. The world already has enough of Rowlings, Nabokovs, Vonneguts.
What it needs is you.
And I guess I’ll leave you with that.
But for real though, what is it that entices you to click on an article in the Reader? Is it a great title? A subject that appeals to you? The word choice? Share your thoughts with me and everyone else!