The biggest mistake I see new writers making is writing about what is “popular.” People get confused when they hear the advice that they should only write about what is going to get the most clicks, or some variation of this advice.
I personally don’t believe that. Every writer should start in the exact same place: writing about what interests them the most. You can spend a year writing about productivity and mindfulness and morning routines, because those are extremely popular topics online right now. But if you don’t care about any of these things, you’re going to be miserable. And as a result, you become much more likely to quit within your first year of trying to break into writing professionally.
Everyone is interested in different things – some a variety of things, which can make it difficult to pick just one niche to establish a presence in. You’re not the only one with a particular interest though – your niche is called a niche because other people are interested in reading what you have to say about a common interest. It may be a very small niche – but size doesn’t matter. Quality does.
Not everyone is going to think everything you write is interesting. You have to write about your interests – why would you waste your time writing about things that don’t matter to you? – but you might love writing about the moon, while half of your potential readers couldn’t care less about anything having to do with space.
When people say you have to write about what people want to read, they don’t mean there are things you’re not allowed to write about. They’re talking about making important considerations like audience and purpose. You should always consider your audience before writing about something you think is cool. I am interested in writing about biology, but I do not write about that here, because that’s not what you’re here for (at least, I don’t think so).
This doesn’t mean I can’t write about that subject at all, ever. Just not in this place, for these people. It’s a completely different niche.
When you write about what you’re interested in, you’re more productive, you might find it easier to focus, and you’ll just be happier overall. Starting out, your own level of interest relates directly to your dedication and the quality/quantity of your work. That is much more important than how many clicks you get. Gathering a faithful, interested audience – people who will stick around, share your writing and interact with you – is the key to growth and success in writing.
Write what you love. Stick with it. Your “people” will find you. They will change your life. Stop writing about what you think other people will care about and produce the content you want to – then reach out to those who will want to engage with it. THAT is how it’s done. If your heart’s not in it, no one else will stick around, either.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-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.