Here’s a take-it-to-the-bank truth: no one cares if you’re a good writer (or if I am or if Shakespeare was).
But if you work at becoming a good writer, you will find readers who will care about what you write.
Writing is a writer’s technique, like an actor’s method. If we’re noticing an actor act, his method isn’t very good, is it?
Writing is the conduit for the substance and emotion you want to convey to your readers. If we’re distracted by the mechanics – your word choice, your sentence structure, your analogies – then your technique is in need of repair.
Your readers want actionable information from your memo or a thrill from your short story. They want you to respect their time. Make reading your stuff worth their while.
So this is both the most terrifying and the most liberating truth about writing: it’s not about you. It’s about your audience.
It’s about learning what your audience wants, then providing it in a way that educates, moves, and challenges.
Because nothing turns a reader off faster than self-centered and self-indulgent writing, even in a personal essay. This kind of writing belongs in your diary or in a draft to let the demons out before you can write for others. If you unleash narcissistic writing on the public, people will tune you out.
So here’s a simple exercise. Go back to something you wrote recently and ask yourself, “who are my readers and what do I want to tell them?” Take your ego out of the picture, then ask whether every word, sentence, and paragraph supports your goal.
Is the message clear or is it lost in a clutter of pretty phrases? Does the order of the paragraphs make logical sense? Is the argument so persuasive that the conclusion you want the readers to reach becomes inevitable?
Do this exercise with every writing project, and you’ll be a far better writer than most. And you will have earned your readers’ time and attention.