What You Want to Write About vs. What Other People Want to Read

What do people want from you?


You have been told time and again that writing for a specific audience is the key to writing content that resonates with a certain group of people. But what happens when you want to write about something no one else wants to read about?

Here’s the truth: SOMEONE wants to read about it. They just haven’t found you yet.

Do you ever feel like you can never seem to produce content people actually care about? Does that ever affect what you write about, or how often you write? Let’s take a closer look at how much ‘writing to please’ really doesn’t matter like you thought it does.

What do people want?

Even I am guilty of still asking this question, so don’t feel embarrassed for scratching your head when this comes up. My involvement with the Internet  Creator’s Guild has completely changed my perspective in the past few months, however. Worrying about what your audience wants to read is only part of the equation. Probably the most important variable when you’re writing something is to start with what matters to you.

In reality, what matters more than trying to please every member of your audience is making sure you are creating content you personally care about. Yes, of course you don’t want to give people what they don’t want. Everyone struggles with this, especially early on. But you also don’t want to unenthusiastically give people what they want, either. Readers can tell when your heart’s not in it. They don’t want your halfhearted effort – not the ones who truly respect and enjoy your content for what it is, anyway.

Those who resonate with you will stick with you

You already know (especially if you’re a long-time reader, or have been brave enough to venture through my archives)  that it’s impossible to make everyone happy. I have a loose background in journalism. I approach content creation with the philosophy that any topic I approach should look at both sides, facts, and a mix of opinions that have actual substance. So to me, writing something just because I think people will like it seems kind of ridiculous, and completely pointless.

Whatever you have to say, whatever you’re writing about, of course there are going to be people who don’t agree or don’t really care for a specific topic or opinion. But there are, as you can probably guess, two sides to this. Because there are also going to be people who DO care, who DO find what you’re saying relatable, who WILL stick with you and continuously read what you have to say. Passion is what beckons a following, not an obsessive eagerness to please every single person who happens upon your content.

Is there such thing as balance here?

Yes and no. There is a way to write about what you want to write about and still create content that draws people in. If you do this long enough, you’ll figure out that people don’t always show up because of WHAT you are writing about. They show up because they are genuinely interested in your writing, and what you have to say. In some cases, they’ll actually want to have conversations with you … which is pretty cool. The internet, if you’re lucky enough to be able to create your own pocket of positivity and intellectual discussion amid the noise, is awesome.

So I suppose the question we should really be asking is: how do people want content presented to them?

  • Your audience wants to be talked about. They care about themselves … so talking about yourself in passing is okay, but they don’t want to read about you. Your life might be totally awesome, but honestly, people who don’t know you don’t really care.
  • They like bullet points. And big bold headings.
  • They want to be told what to do and why. Actionable content is the best most effective content.
  • Therefore, if you’re writing fiction, gosh darn it, give people a reason to read it.
  • They want to be given a chance to respond. They want their voices to be heard, too. Calls to action. Use them.
  • If you’re writing about current events or something science-y (that’s a word now), be insightful. Facts are boring. Give those facts context. Give examples. Tell a story. All those things you learned in school, they weren’t all for nothing.

The bottom line: If you want people to resonate with what you are publishing, put in all the effort you can to write and structure it well. Let your passion for a specific topic drive you forward. Be relatable and conversational. And don’t try to please people. They don’t like that. Your audience wants to be challenged. They truly are interested in your point of view. Don’t worry if people don’t “like” you. Like what you’re doing, and you will over time gain an audience of people who really like that you like what you’re doing.

How do you balance writing what you are interested in with writing about what other people are interested in? What have you found to be the hardest part about this?

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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