Ignore This Popular Writing Advice: Add value instead

Dr. Marina Harris

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=1fuEgi_0Y3KSmTX00Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Writing is really challenging, and writers are always trying to improve. The good news is, there is a ton of writing advice out there. But the bad news is, there is a ton of writing advice out there. It's really challenging to filter helpful advice from the sea of information that is floating around the internet. Especially when that information is coming from popular writers.

When I first started writing, I felt really lost. In particular, I stumbled across some writing advice that I took to heart - but instead of helping me, it actually hurt me a lot. It didn't add any value to my work, and it made me so discouraged that my writing suffered in the long-term.

In an effort to help writers, I did my own research to filter out the bad writing advice. Here is writing advice that is often recommended, but can actually be harmful. Below each unhelpful tip, I've added guidance on what to try instead - from a psychology expert.

Why you shouldn’t write to your audience

The most popular advice I read was to write to your audience.

Articles recommended writing about hot-button, popular topics. They advised using Google’s autofill feature to determine trending topics or searching the Amazon bestseller’s list to see what people are reading about.

They advised against writing about what interests you.


I get part of it. Knowing your audience is crucial so your writing doesn’t end up in the black hole of the internet with no one to read it.

But not writing what you want or what you’re good at? And writing what’s popular?

Here’s why that writing advice misses the mark.

Readers can sense bull****

Your readers are intelligent, curious, unique human beings. They know when something is authentic, and they know when something is nonsense.

If you’re writing for your audience only, you’re pulling from the shallow end of the pool. In writing only what’s popular, you lose nuance and substance. And your readers will know it.

It’s not value-added.

If I’m reading something, I want to be moved. I want to hear something vulnerable that represents someone’s truth. I don’t want a clickbait title with canned advice because a topic is popular.

Try instead

Ask yourself these questions.

What inspires you? What are you passionate about? What are you knowledgeable about? How can you use your unique strengths and write a piece that prioritizes quality over likes and shares?

Writing about what inspires you not only makes the work more bearable, and dare I say fun, but it also helps you built a shared human connection with your readers. It is this connection that makes writing unique over other forms of art. Without that, you might as well be writing to a blank computer screen.

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=0jJGUT_0Y3KSmTX00Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

Reading what is popular doesn’t help us grow

The internet algorithms these days use smart technology - they analyze patterns of what we frequently look at, and recommend future articles and advertisements that fit what we like. Because of this, people are not often reading new perspectives but instead reading what confirms their already-held beliefs.

This is like having a friend who always tells us what we want to hear (or a friend who tells you what they thought they wanted you to hear). Have you ever had a friend like this? It's really nice at first. The friend agreed with all of your opinions. They liked everything you wore.

But they never challenged you. They never encouraged you to think about something from a different angle. They didn’t help you grow. And it turns out, friends like that are pretty dull. And so is writing about what you think people want to hear.

Try instead

Don’t tell readers what they want to hear. Tell them what they need to hear.

When Brené Brown started her writing career and wrote about shame and vulnerability, do you think she was writing what her audience wanted to hear?

Absolutely not.

Few knew what shame was before Brené Brown. And absolutely nobody wanted to talk about it.

Brené Brown didn’t just honor herself by writing about her passion, but she anticipated what her readers needed. She took something people didn’t like talking about, and she packaged it in a palatable way. By doing that, she helped them grow into what they needed.

And as a result, we now have people who are more connected, more vulnerable, and more shame resilient. If Brené Brown decided to only write to her audience, she wouldn’t have helped so many people struggling with shame and vulnerability.

Anticipate topics that help your readers grow. Stretch the limits of human capacity. Build something that wasn’t there before. Bring important writing out into the light, instead of keeping it in the dark.

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=2S4JhG_0Y3KSmTX00Photo by RetroSupply on Unsplash

Don’t lose your authentic voice

If you’re writing only to an audience, you could miss yourself.

Writing is an extension of yourself. And it takes courage to produce words that were only in your soul.

Isn’t that why you wanted to write in the first place? To inspire? To contribute something special?

That’s why I love reading great writing — and that’s why I wanted to write. Because I read pieces that were fearless. And those pieces were articles that only the author could have written because of their lived experience and unique perspective.

Writing what’s popular is safe. What’s scary is writing authentically. But the result offers something much more valuable.

Try instead

Be brave.

Leverage your unique strengths and passions. Ask yourself, what is unique about me that I can bring to my writing? How can I pursue what I like and challenge myself to become better?

Perhaps you bring a unique angle to a popular topic. Or you write about something that has never been written before.

The takeaway

Popular writing advice is easy to come by. But it's not always value-added. Instead of writing what's popular, be brave. What about what inspires you - find the intersection of your talents and interests. That's where your writing will flourish.

But more importantly, it is less about the topic and more about how you write it. Bring your authentic voice into everything you write. Write for connection with your readers, and you'll win no matter what you write about.

Whatever you write, bring yourself to your writing. Otherwise, it’s hollow.

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PhD in Clinical Psychology | Science-backed advice for living your best life | Expert on eating disorders, relationships, and athlete mental health | Former Division I Athlete


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