How I’m building a loyal following
Of all the things that go into “being a writer” one that I have struggled with is building my audience. I don’t have it all figured out now, but I have figured out this much: to attract an audience that will stick, the words must resonate. The catch is making those words resonate…
Writing for myself attracted an accidental audience.
While I was working an emotionally-draining job I wrote poetry in an attempt to seek out beauty in the midst of all the ugly that surrounded me. I published a poem every week on my blog. The goal wasn’t to build a following; I simply needed a creative outlet.
Though my main purpose in writing these poems was self-focused, I wrote some of my best poems with a particular person in mind. For example, I wrote the poem for the mothers without children in their arms for my friend Lori and who am I really was for Shannon. Both poems resonate deeply, even with people I have never met, because I wrote them for real individuals.
I would have been just as content to keep all of the poems locked in a diary as I was posting them publicly. In fact, there are some that I was very hesitant to share, others that I changed before publishing, and even more that I did keep hidden from the public.
If I had set out to build a following this route would never have worked for me. Things like views and comments would have been a distraction. Without a passion beyond wanting my words to be read I would not have had the motivation to sustain the habit.
However, because I published consistently and didn’t worry about pleasing anyone but myself, I attracted a small following. Two years after starting the poetry blog a few followers asked me to compile the poems into a book they could hold in their hands. So I did.
Writing for everyone distanced my audience.
Once I got a taste of what it was like for strangers to read — and like — my writing I began to crave attention. I wanted people to read my words. I wanted to grow my audience.
The problem was that as I wrote I considered the many people who might read what I was writing. It stifled me: I worried about what people might think and I was afraid they might misunderstand my words. Even when I shook off the concern of whether I would be accepted I still couldn’t focus enough to create great work when I had the distraction of knowing that my readers could be coming from any number of differing perspectives.
I slowly learned that when I tried to write for everyone my words resonated with no one. On the other hand, when I wrote with one single person in mind a surprising number of readers responded favorably. I reached more people when I set out to reach just one.
Writing for one person resonates with my audience.
Now when I sit down to write I think of one person who would benefit from what I am writing. Sometimes when I’m drafting an email to send to a whole list of people I choose one of them and begin with a personal greeting. After that the words flow naturally and are more sincere than if I were to begin by saying, “Hey everyone!”