2 Critical Reminders for "Knowing Your Audience" When You Write a Post
13 months ago, I wrote 11 words that serve as a sort of "north star" for my writing ideals.
I'll let you read them first.
Then I'll tell you the two big reminders I personally get from looking at them.
(And I’ll likely make you really angry or really happy with the first example.)
Anyway, the words:
"Typing fast is useful, but knowing your genre's expectations is better."
This is especially true in AI world. Robots can "type" much faster than the fastest writer ever dreamed. It's not a "Usain Bolt" vs. "Michael Johnson in his prime" difference. It's Bolt vs a Ferrari.
But — as we've all seen — ChadGPT and his friends are a great way to churn out crappy work, faster.
I think this is happening because many writers are missing the point of writing.
The point of writing is not to have written.
The point of writing is to connect an audience to a new idea. The deeper the connection, the better the understanding. The better the understanding, the better chance at true communication.
(That’s ONE point of it, anyway).
With that point in mind, consider how those words connect to these two reminders.
1. You can't connect an audience to an idea unless you know the audience.
After years of hearing him called every word from "the devil incarnate" to "the Socrates of our era," I finally dove down Jordan Peterson's rabbit hole. I started with a speech he gave to Dave Ramsey's most loyal followers.
Take a look at this emotionally charged passage.
"(The Radical Left) has gone off to University and they're now resentful and bitter losers with an array of sophisticated arguments about why you're an exploitative capitalist...
The problem is, competent people who are conscientious have a good predictor of business success, especially on the managerial front.
Conscientious people are guilt-prone and because conscientioius people will always be scouring their conscience all the time for things they've done wrong.
That's a good thing if you're going to run a business... but it opens you up on the attack front."
Put your emotional baggage around Jordan aside.
Think about what these mere words are doing.
This audience is full of Dave Ramsey fans. Dave is their hero. They see themselves as running a business that is as successful and as profitable as Dave. And all those people have been told:
They feel guilty for succeeding (likely true of this audience).
Other people will try to stop them by exploiting their guilt.
In 15 seconds, Peterson hits their deepest desires AND deepest insecurities.
He is now their champion.
If you watch any of his other videos (old lectures to college students, for example), you’d see him switch up his approach completely. It’s not just the passage of time that’s given him aggressive language. It’s the change of audience.
Knowing your audience matters in fiction too.
Common advice for fiction authors is to make their work "relatable." Make their characters "relatable." Make the plots "relatable.”
In other words:
Make sure your audience can imagine themselves as the character.
Hard to do on both fronts.
But necessary for maximum impact.
Now then, on to the next reminder I get from my little north star.
2. If you simply repeat your audience back to them, you will get very rich and be very sad.
The purest writers are constantly on quests for new knowledge and information. They seek it, then they write about it.
(In this era, that usually means: they post about it).
And when a writer gets TOO MUCH attention for one insight or topic, it's tough to move on.
It's tough because there is so much damn money involved.
Especially now, where Medium has a dedicated payout to writers, where Amazon opened up brand new income streams for writers, and where Twitter has (as of last week) also started distributing money to writers.
There is gold in those hills
The surest path to that gold is writing about the same topic 927,012 different ways.
Also (at least for me) that's the surest path to misery. Despite the temptation of a massive paycheck. I abandoned nearly 75,000 people because I got so dadgum sick of writing what they wanted to read. I couldn’t do it one more second.
A truth worth remembering:
A writer who constantly moves on to new ideas loses their audience in the short term, but finds fulfillment in the long term. Writers enslaved to their audiences will be crippled emotionally.
At the end of the day, great writing is a result of passion.
Passion does not come from the desires of other people.
Better to ask: "What do I want to know about?
Write about that stuff instead.
Much love as always <3
-Todd B from Tennessee.
P.S. My business partner Tim Denning and I just opened up our month-long writing challenge: The Write 4/28 Challenge.
I only use this kind of language when it’s true:
I have never seen seats go away this quickly.
If you want in, best to move now.