30 Days of Writing Complete. What now?!


It’s been a number of days now since I’ve written anything. Having completed the 30 for 30 Challenge, I’ve taken a physical (but hardly mental) break from writing to clear my head and see where I want to take things next.

In the meantime, I have been reading and listening a lot to Jeff Goins.  Jeff is an entrepreneur and writer who is passionate about helping other people find their writing voice, and teaching what it takes to build a platform and audience. I discovered Jeff’s work in the midst of my writing challenge, and probably would have approached things differently had I encountered his advice first.

Here is some of what I’ve learned, and what i hope to apply to this blog going forward.

Finding one’s voice: Developing one’s voice is essential not only to creating authentic content, but carrying with it a spirit that will attract others. Goins says,

When you write for everyone, you write for no one. Exclude everyone but those who are most important to you. This is the only way to truly connect with an audience.

[…]

Your voice is what resonates with you, and what resonates with an audience.

I’m still figuring out the niche my voice fills, and even what that voice is. Part of developing my voice ( I think), comes from exploring content areas offline, and honing in on the one or two that really resonate with me.

Developing Content: Looking back over my thirty days of writing, and analyzing the topics I chose, I noticed a consistent pattern.  I tend to focus on politics, sociological/psychological phenomenon in our culture, and areas of self-improvement (financial, spiritual, relational). There are a number of blogs out there that already seem to do this. As such, I think I need to narrow my focus going forward.

According to Goins, finding one or two ideas, and writing ONLY about them, is how one broadens their audience. Trying to write for the masses by being all things to all people actually makes less people interested in what one has to say because one isn’t really talking to anybody but your own ego’s desire for fame.

Ironically, the more specific and limited one’s topics, the more readers will be drawn to the work, as it will speak to specific people more directly as opposed to more people more generically.

Who is it I’m trying to attract on this blog?  How can I make my writing more focused and specific? What unique perspective do I offer, and with what type of audience might that perspective connect?  These are questions I’m grappling with in thinking about how to move things forward, and one’s I’m sure many other bloggers have as they start to think their blogs to a higher, more professional level.

Choosing a Platform: Once one finds their voice, one needs to then think about how they will go about presenting themselves. Goins names five platforms he feels every blogger fits. I personally think I am a mix of the Prophet, Journalist and Artist platforms. But according to Goins, you have to pick one major one, and one minor one.  You can’t be them all, otherwise your saying nothing by trying to say everything to everyone. In that case, I’d have to choose Journalist (major), and Artist (minor). He says,

Understanding how your passion connects to the needs of an audience is essential to building a platform.

One cannot merely follow their passion if they want to be successful and have a tribe.  Writing for writing’s sake is fine, but if you care about people reading it, you need to figure out how to develop a tribe of readers and followers who are interested in that passion as well.

One of the websites I admire and go to every day to satiate my intellectual curiosity is Brainpickings, by Maria Popova.  Brainpickings is defintely a platform and style I aspire to. It’s the epitomy of what I think of as the Journalist platform, with a mix of the Artist platform. Maria has developed a knack for asking a bunch of very interesting questions on a variety of intellectual subjects, and then delving into pieces of literature that explore those questions, while also curating a set of images and art that add a visual element to the story.

Getting Permission: What does it mean to get permission? Goins says about content and getting permission from an audience,

Anticipation is everything.  If I’m waiting for your message, I care about it. If not, then I don’t care – no matter how good it is.

The term for this, coined by the blogger, marketer and entrepreneur, Seth Godin, is Permission Marketing. The antithesis to this is Interruption Marketing.

The idea behind Interruption Marketing is that by interrupting enough people, a small percentage will, by serendipity, find the content interesting and continue to follow or subscribe to the message. Done enough over time, people will to start to follow.  Keeping this idea in mind, ask yourself, how many times have you become a loyal reader of spam mail? Likely none of you. Spam mail, of the digital or analog kind, is Interruption Marketing at its finest.

Contrary to this is Permission Marketing, whereby people “opt in” to receive the content. In this way, they have already expressed an interest by choosing to receive the message. They are primed to receive it, and open to it.

Unlike Interruption Marketing, which can be blanketed as far and wide as one has the resources, Permission Marketing takes time and the slow development of trust. People have to want to receive your message.  This usually takes a while to develop, and is created through consistently providing content that has value. The staying power of getting permission is much more lasting in its effect than interruption can ever hope to achieve.

Main Takeaways:

  • Carefully curate writing to that which most strongly represents one’s voice and worldview.
  • Work on structure so as to allow for a less distracting reading experience, and one that is developed in a way that allows those who are interested to easily find the topics of their own volition.
  • Slowly build a following (a tribe) by creating content that matters, and that is expressed through one’s unique voice.
  • Be less diffuse. Narrow focus of content to areas that one has a strong passion, but that are also approached from a unique in perspective.
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Author: Zack Hayhurst

New Yorker enthusiast, cartoon caption contest contender, book hoarder, cultural omnivore, writer

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