Help! What Should I Write About?

Jim Woods

Photo by Dom J (Creative Commons)

I get it. For several years, I felt the same way.

I wrote about sports. And music. And dreaming and ideas and writing and leadership and careers. I think that about covers it.

And then I’d wonder why I had no clear audience.

Here’s the secret no one talks about: people are busy and have lives of their own, so they can only put you into one category.

One day you’re writing about leadership and the next day you’re talking about technology.

When you write about a bunch of different topics, you cannot expect to build an audience.

When you don’t even know what topics you are writing about, how can the reader know what to expect when they visit your blog?

You’ve got a clarity issue.

But there’s good news: you can remedy this by choosing an umbrella. by Adriana Calvo (Creative Commons)

That’s right, pick an umbrella.

But not in the traditional sense: see, the topic you choose to write about is like an umbrella.

My umbrella is story. I write non-fiction to help writers tell better stories, and I tell stories by writing fiction.

I don’t write about music, unless it is focused on helping other writers tell better stories.

If I write about productivity, it is focused on — you’ve guessed it — helping other writers tell better stories.

Again, story is my umbrella. It’s what works for me.

When you choose your umbrella, you start to see what fits and what doesn’t fit.

Let’s say you want to talk about careers, entrepreneurship, starting a business, and marketing. Maybe an umbrella for you is “escaping the cubicle” or something like that.

I think Chris Guillebeau originally chose that idea with his “Art of Non-Conformity“ mindset and lifestyle.

A word of warning: be okay with choosing the wrong umbrella.

You will very likely get it wrong the first time around. My friend writer Jeff Goins wrote on blogs for over 5 years that were unsuccessful.

It’s part of the territory, and that’s okay.

It’s not failure if you’re learning.

With each and every blog post you write, you get more experience.

You’re learning.

You’re growing.

The cool thing is you can always choose another umbrella. You don’t have to stick with the same one forever.

Be careful and remember that one umbrella (or topic) is NOT your identity. Sure, you’re pouring your heart and soul into words on the page, but it’s only a tiny piece of the work you’ve created.

Here are a few specific steps you can take right now to figure out your umbrella.

  1. Set a timer for 30 minutes to help you focus.
  2. Grab a notebook and jot down the topics of the posts you’ve already written (or want to write about).
  3. Get specific. Jot down any headlines or examples that stand out at you.
  4. Figure out what umbrella covers those topics.
  5. Set a goal of writing a specific number of posts that fit under that umbrella. (For example, 8 posts would be a great experiment if you wrote one post a week for two months.)
  6. Reevaluate and assess how it is going. If you put your work on Medium, look at your stats. Specifically the number of read-thrus, replies, highlights, etc.

Again, be okay with some experimentation here. Despite what some “experts” may try to tell you, it takes time to improve as a writer and writing online is not an easy task. You’re competing with Youtube and Netflix and Instagram and a billion other things.

The great news is YOU CAN DO IT.

Focus is the key. And it starts one word at a time, one sentence at a time, one blog post at a time.

So I gotta ask… what umbrella best fits your writing? Please share your thoughts in a response.

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Stories are powerful. That's why I write.

Akron, OH

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