I joined a writers group last week and our second official meeting is tomorrow.
The goal of my joining a writers' group is to write more, but there are a few counterintuitive things I think are worth mentioning.
Many people join writers' groups because they want to improve their writing habits or write more frequently.
But another issue's often at play.
A big reason many people don’t write more isn't that they lack ideas or can't get themselves to sit down and write, but instead because they're not sure what sort of return on investment they'll get from publishing their writing.
Many of these people are professionals who don’t want to give away their expertise for free.
Others are unsure about what expertise people actually care to read.
One thing I believe is most writers should write more and then decide later what they want to publish.
This does two things that are beneficial for writers.
- It makes your writing more natural and your writing process easier
- It makes you think more about the subjects you’re writing about
So, back to the question at hand:
What personal expertise is worth sharing?
One way I’ve been able to improve my career and make more money is by sharing what types of problems I solve and how I think about solving them.
To this end, I think many writers who also consult can relax a bit more about writing and sharing their ideas because you don’t need to share the exact methods you use or your “secret sauce.”
Merely talking about why the problem you solve is important and how you go about identifying the problem is usually enough to build enough trust with your audience and start conversations that can lead to you making money.
What topics do people want to read about?
Another big factor in whether your writing makes an impact is positioning.
What you name articles and when you publish them makes a big difference.
One thing I’ve learned from publishing articles on the internet is people resonate a lot more with headlines they agree with than with headlines that seem novel or counterintuitive.
My advice for new writers is to keep an open mind about topics, but don't keep your mind so open about headlines.
You can write about almost anything if you can label it something people believe or want to believe.
Articles with headlines that seem "interesting" are often not met with any interest.
People want to affirm or build upon the ideas they already have. Not question their existing belief systems.
And let's be honest about why. Questioning our ideas and belief system is difficult and risky. No one wants to build their life on a shaky foundation, but that's exactly how people feel when they read ideas that deeply conflict with their existing mental models.
Most audiences don’t want to hear something counterintuitive even if it’s right.
If You're Writing to Sell Your Services, Stay Away from Novelty and Help Provide Certainty
Writing about ideas that are novel or counterintuitive is even more dangerous for writers who do so for consulting reasons.
If the primary way consultants gain new business through writing is by building their audience's trust, writing about ideas that provoke feelings of uncertainty and doubt kills their business opportunities.
So this idea leads us to another interesting question:
What should you do if you want to write about ideas very few people agree with? Or worse, write about ideas many people disagree with?
Well, I'd still argue that writing about your ideas is a great way to improve how you think about them.
Writing brings clarity to the factors that go into your decision making and attention to the problems that matter.
Writing about controversial ideas can help you find loyal niche audiences and build a brand.
Research if your niche audience already exists and is passionate about the ideas you write about. There are often existing communities you can use to validate how much engagement you might get with your writing.
While most of Facebook's social media platform is dying, Facebook's Groups feature is a gold mine for budding writers looking to discover topics of interest.
If you do choose to write about controversial topics, just keep in mind that you're planning for short-term pain and potential long-term gain.
One alternative approach to writing about controversial topics is writing your articles or outlines ahead of time.
If you think your idea will gain mass appeal but don't think it will be well-received now, write the article or an outline and shelve it for later. After you've written it, write down some quick notes on what events would trigger you to publish it.
This will enable you to quickly take advantage of the moment if the opportunity should arrive.