Starving Writer? Feed Your Reader

#WrMatters met for the second time on Thursday, April 19th. #WrMatters is a Tweet Chat for subject matter experts who are not necessarily trained writers but who have discovered the vital role that written communication plays in their work. We (me and expert editor Shakirah Dawud of Deliberate Ink) talk with writers about writing because we all understand that communication is key!

In our first session, held on Thursday, April 5, we introduced the concept of the Writer’s Triangle and together with Michelle Quillin of @NEMultimedia and Megan from @MWritesMedia talked about the angle that gives most of us so much pain, the audience.

On the 6th, both I and Shakirah followed that conversation with summaries on our blogs. Be sure to check out our articles, Tough Crowd? How to Write Straight to Your Reader and Who to Write to When Everyone’s Reading, as well as a follow-up piece by Michelle Q – Help! I’m Out of Blog Post Ideas!

For our second session, we moved to the base of the triangle to talk about our purpose as writers, a topic I found particularly salient since I have found my own to be waning lately.

author-centered messageLong-time followers may remember that in a previous post, Writing That’s Real, I suggested 3 different relationships between purpose and author or audience based on 3 different types of messages. In that post, I argued that the majority of messages were either audience-centered or purpose-based and that the only appropriate place for an author-centered message was in pure research. Thursday’s Tweet Chat has given me a new perspective on the role played by the author in the Writer’s Triangle.

Both Shakirah and I agree that when writers are driven by necessity or fear, burnout will likely ensue. The need to finish a piece of writing to satisfy one’s supervisors or complete a to-do list is not sufficient impetus to keep the creative juices flowing. Shakirah suggests keeping each piece of writing fresh, and she does that by relying on past messages with clients and her relationships with them to provide her communication.

I also have a tendency to remain audience-centered, even when writing in a broader context such as a blog post by communicating with my readership frequently in more casual settings such as Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. When I remember where my readers are on a daily basis, my purpose gets stronger, and I get motivated to communication more clearly. So both Shakirah and I find value in keeping our audience front and center and allowing them to dictate our purpose.

There are unfortunately some challenges with that as well. Keeping our audience central sometimes means that we don’t feel fed, and it can be tough to keep drawing from that well when it’s not always being replenished.

Freelance writers have to do a lot of writing that is not directly in our field of interest. I, for example, enjoy studying language and literature as theories. But since I teach government biologists, I can’t feed them a diet of theory. They require tips, techniques, and strategies. So I have to write blog posts, lesson plans, and articles with tools so biologists can make language work for them.

Technical writers, on the other hand, may find themselves getting bogged down with the structure of language, discovering words that their audience can understand and sentence structures that are clear and straightforward, all of which allows for clear communication but detracts from the subject matter, the reason they fell in love with the field in the first place.

So one solution to the lack of motivation is to find ways to immerse yourself in your passion, to feed the author side of the triangle. Both Shakirah and I understand that reading within our field and conversing with those who share our love of the topic are vital for maintaining a sense of our purpose and inspiration. But after yesterday’s Tweet Chat, I’m almost convinced that we also need to write about the subjects that we love, love in the language and voice that is most natural to us, even if our audience isn’t necessarily as passionate about that subject as we are.

Certainly we can’t write that way all the time. There are times when we have to keep our messages either purpose- or audience-centered. But if we’re constantly working those sides of the communication, we will get burnt out. Self-indulgent blog posts, journal articles, and discussion threads re-open the lines of communication not only within our own creative wellsprings, but also between us and our readers.

When they see our personal interest flair, our readers become motivated to learn more about what we know and thereby begin to expand their own horizons. So the next time you feel a lack of motivation, consider writing about what interests you instead of what you feel compelled to write and see if you can find a venue for it.

We hope that you will join us for our next Tweet Chat, which will be May 3rd at 4 pm. We have one more aspect of the Writer’s Triangle to discuss, and that is the author. And of course we’re always open to the topics you care about. So if you have questions or experiences that you’d like to address, please feel to share those with me or Shakirah, either on our blogs or on Twitter. Thanks!

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