File what I’m about to say under the header of “note to self”: Stop spending so much of your time trying to get anointed by the influencers in your space.
As writers, we crave an readers. As potential businesses, we require potential customers. As humans, we want those we admire to tell us we’re worthwhile. This often causes us to shift our focus away from the work and toward finding an audience. There is no problem with this; part of the job of anyone who creates is to get it in front of another person. The challenge comes from who we target.
So much of our time is spent trying to reach our hand up, hoping (almost always in vain) that someone there above it will grasp it and pull you up to the next level. Sure, this happens all the time and there are even ways to enhance the chances that it does. But is this really how you want to spend your energy? Is this really going to make you do your best work? No. Chances are that over time, the work will become more about getting their attention than it will about the people you’re actually trying to reach and the things you are trying to say.
Chances are this post won’t get me some magical seal of approval. Chances are your next one won’t either, so stop writing for it. Write for yourself. Write about a topic you’re obsessed with, write something that is more likely to help one random person than it is to get you noticed by one important one. Stop crafting silver bullets meant to shoot you to the top and start working on something you can be proud of in a few years.
Chances are your blog will fail; chances are this one will as well. There are just too many of us and oftentimes a quality signal just becomes part of the noise. Don’t make this about the traffic, make it about you and your audience. If you only ever get a handful of readers, obsess over how you can make their lives a tiny bit better rather than how you can appeal to those who likely have no interest in what you’re saying. Take all that energy and make a bigger impact on the readers you already have. Hell, take all that energy and make yourself better.
If you’re making waves, someone should take notice. If you’re not, no amount of nagging will get you where you want to go. Find your people, find your topic, write like mad and make something your proud of. And if one day, someone from above takes notice, you’ll have built a body of work for their audience to enjoy rather than lucking out with one of many failed experiments aimed at getting, but not keeping, a new reader’s attention.
Merlin Mann, Leo Babauta and John Gruber have a sense of humor. For anyone who might be even the least bit confused, they in no way shape or form said any of those things (although they very well may be thinking them).Note: I’ve added a few bits of imaginary “social proof” to the sideboard to help drive a little bit of attention to this post. Here’s hoping that three of my writing heroes,