Answering a reader's question from the "Ask me anything" thread
You might recall that I wrote a blog post recently where I opened up the floor to you, the reader, to ask me anything. It could be about me, economics, dating and relationships, the beautiful game; absolutely any topic under the sun. I can't promise a perfect answer, but I can promise that I will give it my best shot. Of course, all questions are completely anonymous. Worst case scenario, I might give you an arbitrary name like "Bob" or something.
Anyway, I recently received a question in my inbox so, without further ado, allow me to answer it.
Q: Why was I instantly attracted to your writing on Quora?
Well, that certainly is a very flattering question. To paraphrase the great Olivier Giroud, perhaps it's because I'm gorgeous. And hey, I can't change that I'm gorgeous. In all seriousness, thank you for your question, I really do appreciate it. (Note: go to this link if you want to follow me on Quora).
I think that the heart of this question is the power of emotional resonance between a reader and a writer. As a writer, a crucial part of this is having a clearly identifiable style of writing. It should be a style that, when someone reads your content, he immediately says "oh yeah, that's definitely Bob. No one else writes like that." However, this doesn't happen overnight. I'm not using hyperbole when I say that I've spent almost a decade (and running) creating and improving my personal style of writing. I'm at a pretty good place now but it can always be better.
All of this is to say that I think that one of the most fundamental ways to resonate with your readers is to have a distinct style of writing (which is something that I talked about in my writing guide). Why? Because there are hundreds of millions of blogs out there and so many people publishing content that it's incredibly easy to become "just another writer" out of the millions of writers on the Internet. And if you're just like everybody else, why should someone spend time reading what you write?
There is, of course, much more that goes into creating emotional resonance between the reader and the writer, but these are the two most important concepts that come to mind right now: authenticity* and transparency.
*Let the record show how much I loathe how overused the word has become in society. It's painful, really.
Authenticity is one of those words that I love to hate, but I do eventually see the use of it. My stance on authenticity is best captured through this Mark Twain quote.
Personally, when I'm being authentic I try to be as honest as I can but not to the point of it being cringeworthy. Why? Because life isn't always beautiful, sometimes "love finding you when you're not looking" is total bullshit, and "just being yourself" can be the worst advice ever. Therefore, and with respect to Mark Twain's words, when I'm being "authentic" I always take the time to pause, reflect, and think to myself "hold on, is this piece of so-called authenticity really me or am I just rehashing some mantra I saw online?" It's actually an underrated philosophy that I've applied to my life in general and has proven to be quite successful. Anyway, it seems to me that the problem with authenticity is that people rarely pause to reflect about how they're being authentic. So perhaps people are drawn to my writing because I (do my best to) keep these things in mind when I write.
There's also the problem of a lack of moderation/balance when being authentic. That is, if I'm too authentic, it becomes cringeworthy. But if I'm too emotionless, readers aren't sure if they're reading a human being's writing or that of a robot. I can't be too emotional either because then I just sound like a keyboard warrior.
But I try not to always write about my personal life either because that's what my journal is for. Then again, if I never write about anything personal, there will always be an emotional gap between me and the reader.
Or I can write too much about the same topic and then all I am is that guy that always writes about dating and relationships or about the vivid details of his sex life (or depressing lack thereof)**. Anyway, you get the point; like the Avatar, I try to balance all these elements when writing and it seems that people appreciate that.
**Concerning this point, if you're going to write about the same topic all the time – which, in itself, isn't necessarily bad – then at least add depth and nuance to the topic. For example, with dating and relationships you can talk about this phenomenon in different cultures, different generations, the impact of language on dating and relationships, and so on.
Get to the point!
Speaking of making a point, I always follow what has become an unofficial Golden Rule of writing for me, courtesy of Dana Shultz.
People are busy. People don't care. People have a million other things to do than read what I have to write. Because of this, I know that I have to earn and respect every microsecond of your time and attention. I respect your time by (hopefully) not wasting it and getting to the point as quickly as possible. Of course, I still use sidestories, anecdotes, and quirky jokes to add some humor to my writing, but I try to do so sparingly.
Unsurprisingly, I think people like it if you don't waste their time and just get to the damn point as quickly as possible.
That's all for now!
I hope that you liked my unexpectedly long answer. Also, thank you very much for the question! I really enjoyed answering it as it was a welcome change of pace to my usual content. Finally, for everybody else reading, please feel free to send in more!
See you, Space Cowboy.