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This One Piece of Advice for Writers is Largely Known, But It’s Actually Holding You Back

“Write for others, not for yourself.”

How many times have you heard this piece of advice in your writing career? And how many times have you rolled your eyes at it?

Now, before I disagree with this piece of advice, I want to point out that it’s not the actual advice that’s wrong — it’s the delivery. And sure, maybe who you heard it from was trying to sell something, maybe not. But either way, here’s why this is holding you back.

Burnout is real

How far have you gotten into writing for someone else? When you get further and further, how exhausting is it for you?

You can get burned out on jobs, careers, and doing the same thing over and over—if it’s not what you enjoy doing.

That’s the problem with saying to write for your readers. There’s no action steps, no clarification, no follow through. So where does that lead you?

To try and replicate the BS marketing of “X ways to cook turkey” and similar articles. But what growth have you truly seen from those article types?

Maybe a bit. But not as much as you’d like. And not enough to warrant you hating the work that you’re doing, especially as a self-employed writer.

What to do instead

Like I said, it’s not that I completely disagree with that advice, on the contrary, I’m using it right now in this article, but in a way that makes sense.

Write for yourself, but in the way that a reader will enjoy and get the most from it.

If you’re not writing for yourself, why would you ever start writing in the first place? You enjoy writing, therefore you write.

Do what you love. Not what others want you to do. We’re trying to get away from pleasing people, right? So do what you want to do, just with a twist.

Make it usable for others

This article is actually written for myself. However, if I was to read it back, it wouldn’t sound that way. So what does that mean?

Instead of saying “I, me, my..” I’m substituting it with “You”.

“You” feels more personal. It feels more like it’s written for you (maybe not anymore because I just shared my secret sauce with you, but you get the point).

When you’re writing for an audience, it feels better to those of us who read it when it feels more personal. Like you’re talking directly to me. And like we’re sipping coffee at a rainy-day café trading writer-to-writer secrets.

That’s the vibe I want at least. Cozy, personal, friendly. Like we’ve been catching up.

It evokes a more personal response too. Have you ever watched the news and realized that you really just aren’t feeling much by listening to what they’re saying?

You’re not a bad person, you just don’t identify with what they’re saying. Because it’s not about you. That’s just how humans think and connect.

And the stories that do directly affect you, that resonates deeply. Which is why it’s used in marketing tactics (which I’ll get into in the future).

Final thoughts

I don’t disagree with the whole statement, just that there are pieces missing from it. And those missing pieces can lead you down a path of trial and error and to being held back from actually succeeding at this thing called writing.

So, write for yourself. But phrase it like you’re talking to a person sitting in front of you. What do they want to know from you? What question have they just asked you? How would you tell them the answer?

Use “You” and you’re able to write about any experience, life lesson, story, or passion that you want to.

This article was originally published on Medium by Lillith Elaina.