To improve your writing, create a list of people you don’t give a fuck about.
I don’t mean individuals. I’m referring to groups.
That sounds vulgar and harsh, to some. There are people who believe profanity doesn’t belong in writing and those who oppose cuss words altogether.
But I’ll write something milder soon, and some of those people will forgive me. They’ll be willing to put the past behind us and move forward.
Other people will wipe their hands and turn their backs on me forever. Those are the people I don’t give a fuck about.
It doesn’t bother me they will never read anything else that I write because I can’t write for everybody. No writer can.
And that is my point.
“If I tried to write a universal novel, it would be water.”
To write for everyone is the same as standing for everything.
Writing is not a one-size-fits-all business. The more people-pleasing you mix into your creative process, the more diluted and fraudulent your finished product will be.
Think about demographics and how they’re used. Businesses look at the population as a whole pie. They slice it into segments, which are different groups based on age, race, college education, etc.
They choose which pieces are most important and which pieces they can do without. They base their decisions on the important pieces, not the other pieces. But if the opportunity arises, of course, they happily take bites from those other pieces.
Demographics are used religiously in politics and big business. But that mentality is needed more often in little business, especially the little business of writing.
If your writing is flat, boring, lacks voice, or is missing personality… If you know what you want to say but you just don’t seem to be saying it… there’s a good chance you’re censoring yourself.
Instead of writing for demographics that can relate with what’s trying to come out of you, you’re sterilizing your thoughts, hoping appeal to everybody, praying you don’t offend anybody.
It’s much harder to produce content that way, and it’s certainly much harder to have an impact or make a lasting impression. Like water, writing that’s aiming to appeal too broadly is colorless, flavorless, and widely available.
Accept that you can’t appeal to everyone. Realize you shouldn’t want to.
When you’re struggling to be genuine, when the words you’re writing don’t sound like the words inside your head, stop.
Make a list of the types of people you think may be critical of what it is that you really want to say. For each one, think about if that’s really a target audience, or if it needs to be. If not, scratch through it.
Then, get back to work and don’t hesitate to say things that may upset people you’ve scratched off your list.
“Write straight into the emotional center of things. Write toward vulnerability. Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you’re a writer you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act—truth is always subversive.” Anne Lamott