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Writing for You, and Why it Works to Draw Others to Your Blog

There’s one common thing about the four blogs that I run today—I started them all for myself.

  • ProBlogger Blog Tips: When I started ProBlogger I was experimenting with the medium of blogging to make a living. I was already doing it to some extent, but I’d been looking for a blog on how to do it better and couldn’t find it. So I started it myself with the goal of improving my blogging and connecting with others who were blogging for an income.
  • Digital Photography School: My previous photography blog was about camera reviews (which I partly started because I was researching cameras to buy), but after a couple of years of using a digital camera I wanted to connect with other digital camera owners to learn from them. Most of the photography sites around back then were either focused upon film or were stagnant info sites without dynamic, updated content, so I started dPS in an attempt to document what I was learning and connect with others in the space.
  • TwiTip Twitter Tips: Similar to the start of ProBlogger, TwiTip was a blog that I wanted to read about a medium that I was experimenting with.
  • FeelGooder: This blog was all about topics that I’ve always wanted to have a blog on. I’ve long wanted to read a blog that helped people lead a more positive life, and while there are some great ones about, I started FeelGooder based upon some core topics that I wanted to grow in and explore.

I started each of these blogs at least partially with my own need to learn and grow in mind. Interestingly, in each case I’m not sure I’d call myself an “expert” on the topics I’m exploring. In the beginning of each blog I certainly had an interest, but I was also still growing in my understanding of the topics involved.

I contrast the above list with most of the other blogs that I’ve started over the years (ones which failed), and in most cases I feel that they at least partially failed because I didn’t really have an interest in the topics—I was writing them more because I thought they could be popular or profitable.

Why writing for you works

Why does writing for yourself work? Three main reasons come to mind.

Firstly, since you’re writing about something that you are personally interested in, you’ll find people are more drawn to it because it’ll be written in a more engaged and personal tone. People tend to have pretty good intuition in this way—if you’re not really engaged, the chances are that your audience won’t be either.

Secondly, because you’re engaged, you’ll find it a lot easier to sustain the blog for the long term. It’s tough to keep a blog going for a year or more when you’re not really interested in the topic!

Lastly, you’ll be writing about real needs, problems, and learning. Because you’re writing about a topic you have something invested in personally, you’ll be a lot more in tune with real needs of those who are reading. For example, on dPS in the early days, I was writing about the basics of digital photography as I discovered them for myself. While I wasn’t an expert teaching a comprehensive guide to the topic, readers seemed to connect on a deeper level because I was writing from their perspective about challenges that they were feeling and facing in their own photography.

Do you write for you? I’d love to hear your take on this issue in the comments.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Lori Meyer says:

    It’s vital to not only write “for you” but to write in a down-to-earth, every day tone that your readers will enjoy.

    I like to write as though I’m putting my thoughts in a diary. I also see my computer as a friend that I’m conversing with. That removes the tendency to write a novel and instead allows me to pour my heart out through the keys.

    I love to share my knowledge and my heart with my readers. I want them to see that I’m a real person facing the same issues they are. My posts are not just words on a blog but thoughts, feelings and down-to-earth advice that I hope others will benefit from.

    • Anabelle says:

      I agree with you Lori. It’s easier (and more fun) to write about things you care about and things you want to share with others.

      I’m new at the conversational tone of professional blogging (who ever heard of conversational tone in literature academic papers!), but I can see why it’s so compelling. People want to feel connected.

      Write like a real person and people will read you and answer back.

  2. Ann says:

    Hi Darren,

    I started a blog on property and home interior 2 months ago. Why I start this blog? I used to work as a professional in the industry for 10years. Last year, I quit to be a work at home mom for a more balance life between work and family. During this year, I felt I have been disconnected from the industry which I love. Suddenly I thought of writing a blog to share my knowledge (although not expert) and continue my journey in another way.

    I believe readers will be able to feel whether a blogger is writing with his/her heart. One cannot go far without passion.

    As a newbie, I have a lot to learn. Am still reading your book :)

    Cheers, Ann

  3. Orna Ross says:

    It’s what makes blogging sooooooooo rewarding. I write for newspapers and magazines too but there you’ve got to mediate the editor and other gatekeepers. It wasn’t until I started blogging that I realised just how much you censor yourself when you write for other publications. It has made a real difference to my fiction too. I write my blog for the same reason that I teach, to learn what I most want to know — which at the moment is all about the creative process and how to apply it.

  4. I agree with you 100%. You should only start a blog if you are passionate about the topic because if you can’t transmit your passion across to your readers then your blog is simply going to get lost in the blogosphere.

  5. Noumaan says:

    I started my three successful blogs for myself. I loved the topics and I always got comments, trackbacks and higher search rankings for those blogs. Later I started two blogs where I did not have much interest in the topics but I didn’t get any comments from visitors on these blogs even though they have quite a lot of visitors.

  6. Andi says:

    I’m definitely writing for me – now if I could find a few more people who are interested in what I have to say!

  7. Ann says:

    I’m writing a how-to book for that very same reason. A few months back I started playing an unusual folk instrument. It is easy to play but not easy to find good teach-yourself information. I did a huge amount of research to teach myself. Then since I had all of that I decided to write a beginner how-to book from the beginner’s perspective. The book is almost done and I’m excited to be about to offer it to the public. The book was so much easier to write than I expected mainly because I was so excited about the subject.

  8. Thomas says:

    Darren,
    Great post as well as your point of view. Thx for the post.

  9. Darren, it’s refreshing to see this perspective. As I have started working on developing products, however, I struggle with “writing for myself” versus “writing for my audience.” I’ve struggled to know whether the product I am developing will actually be one which my audience needs. Any thoughts?

  10. Writing for you means writing on your interests.If we blog on a niche we are more fond of- the chances of growing your blog is huge. If you started a blog on a topic that doesn’t suit you much- There is only less chance to succeed. I wrote a guest post on weblogbetter – http://weblogbetter.com/2011/05/10/blog-niche/ about the same. Read it if you are interested.

  11. Jane says:

    I am definitely writing for myself and people are connecting because it is personal. I have been wanting to write my story for a long time and my blog is finally allowing me to do this.

    My topic is personal, which helps, because I am telling my story of when my son developed Pneumococcal Meningitis at 5 1/2 months old and what it is like to parent a brain injured child.

    I think writing is such a personal thing and they say you should write what you know.

    Thank you for this post, it confirms that I am on the right path.

    Jane
    http://thisisnoordinarykid.blogspot.com/

  12. Yes, you have to write for yourself if you hope to keep it going long-term. Otherwise it’s just too hard.

  13. Tom says:

    I just let the domain expire on the very first blog I started. My current blog I started with the goal of helping me become a better informed, more knowledgeable dentist. This blog has not only helped me by teaching me about common problems that patients have, it also helps people searching on Google for answers to their dental problems.

  14. George says:

    I agree. I write a cooking blog. If I wrote a clinical assessment on “how to cook x” I would never get another reader. People can get that out of a cookbook. Instead I try and answer “why to cook x”. That gives the reader a chance to mentally engage with the post, e.g. do they want to make this? Just telling someone how to cook something is (to most) an uninteresting presentation of facts. Telling them why I cook it at least lets them play out a mini-story.

  15. Hi Darren,

    Another first class post!. I actually do this on Twitter, its a reference I can go back to for good links and websites in the future if I forget. ;]

    Have a top week!,

    David Edwards

  16. linda says:

    This is a great tip. I’m blogging mainly for myself, too. Blogging is a great outlet for self-expression as well as a good way to document the things I’m learning. I like how the visibility of blogging motivates me to polish my ideas and make them accessible to others instead of allowing them to fade away with time. Of course, I hope readers find my posts interesting and helpful, but at this point in my blogging journey that would be more of a bonus.

    But if you want your writing to be read widely, it would be important to blog at the intersection of what interests you and what other people want to read. Blogging as therapy on topics that concern no one else would count as “writing for yourself” but probably isn’t the best way to go about gaining readership, if that’s your goal. This post makes a good case for why it’s not recommended to write on a topic you care nothing about solely because you think others might be interested, but going in the opposite extreme and writing only for yourself with no thought of your readers wouldn’t be a great idea either.

  17. I do blog for myself. Every post is written because the topic is on my mind and I need a place to vent my opinion. The only problem is that I do not have a theme in my blog, except for the running theme of “opinion.” I guess it’s not really a problem because people keep coming back to read my posts, but the general advice on how to increase your audience is always “pick a theme and stick with it.”

    What do you think? If I want greater exposure for my writing will my “smorgasbord” of a blog hamper me in the long run?

  18. Grace Oris says:

    Yes, in effect I do write for myself, because I’m thinking that what I write should always be something I would want to read. It’s one of my first tests in choosing what topic to talk about, would I want to read it? But I think there’s a fine line between writing for yourself and for your readers. It’s a turn-off reading a post that does not give any benefit for the reader at all and merely comes off as the ravings of an egotist.

  19. Elana says:

    I hadn’t really thought of my blog this way before, but I realize now that this is exactly what I am doing.

    I have long wondered about two things–why I was able to be so successful in college, against all odds, and why others with backgrounds similar to my own haven’t been able to experience the success that I found.

    In my blog I write about what it takes to be successful in college in a way that I hope people like me will understand. I want others to know that if I could earn multiple college degrees, then they can too.

    I am just getting started and I’m really curious to know if I’ve figured something out that will help people avoid the college dropout syndrome (something I experienced long before I earned my first degree).

    But mostly, I am writing because it feels good to share what I have learned. I’ve faced and overcome a lot of struggles in my life. Paradoxically, college was one of those struggles. But if was ALSO part of the reason I have come so far.

  20. I was recently talking to a group of university students about the writing process, and one of them asked me if I ever write for me. It’s a question that’s been rattling around in my head for a while, and I really appreciate the way you’ve summarized it here—contrasting being an expert with “writing from their perspective about challenges that they were feeling and facing in their own photography.”

    There is the “writing for me” that comes off as essentially self-absorbed, and in an effort to avoid that, perhaps, some of us end up being a little two self-conscious. And if I understand you, perhaps the solution isn’t so much writing to an audience as it is identifying with the audience.

  21. Writing blogs that you have a passion for is much easier than writing about a product or service but it is amazing how the bug bites you once you start writing,sometimes even if I have no idea what sort of thing i will blog about by the time I have done my homework on the subject the passion grows anyhow, i think its just the writing factor and how you come across different when you put pen to paper as they say or in our case finger to keyboard

  22. Kenna says:

    I just wonder if you ever feel like one blog is ready for you to take on another one. I have two blogs now. The first is written for journalism students and advisers (www.profkrg.com). The second is my personal blog that’s more of a “Mommy blog.” I’m really interested in time management, productivity and leadership. These things could fit into my journalism blog, but they really seem like a different blog totally. That being said, it seems like there’s a lot of work to do on my first blogs without adding another one. How do you decide that you’re ready to branch off?

  23. Hi Darren,

    It is exactly what I done in my few blogs. I started a new blog because of the need to express certain topics in a specific blog and I enjoy the experience of starting from the scratch again and again.

  24. Unfortunately “writing for you” only works if you happen to like a somewhat popular niche that others want to read about. It also helps if you don’t want to enter a niche that is already over-saturated. There are many tech blogs, internet marketing blogs, etc. but there are less “how to build a wooden playhouse on a tree” websites :) Yes it’s seasonal but lots of people like to read about it (for several psychological reasons as well that I don’t want to get into now) and I don’t think many people thought about blogging in this niche :-D

  25. Rob Matysiak says:

    excellent post!!! I’ve used this blog as inspiration and wrote one myself!!!

  26. Jennefer says:

    I love this! I have sometimes wondered if maybe I started my blog to soon as I am still learning about my topic and exploring it in depth myself. But I think I agree when you say that it is easier to write about real needs and problems when you are still growing with the topic yourself because you are personally engaged.

  27. I write for myself AND my readers. I have four blogs that I actively update (and a few others I hope to get around to “some day”). The reason I write these 4 blogs grew out of questions I receive from readers.

    So, in order to not have to answer the same questions over and over again, I started blogging the answers and pointing readers there.

    I agree with what Lori said about writing in a tone that’s down to earth. Many readers have commented that they like my writing style, finding it funny, down to earth, engaging. This makes it easier for them to connect with you.

    Just my 2 cents.

  28. Haber says:

    Yes, you have to write for yourself if you hope to keep it going long-term.

  29. Amy says:

    I blog for myself, but mainly about myself as well. I’m basically writing about how to be a better person, but since I’m not an expert in that :) my blog is about my journey. Hopefully it resonates with people, but I am enjoying it regardless. And it’s given me ideas for a couple of other blogs that I might enjoy but could also be more profitable.

  30. Brad says:

    Are you implying that there are other people that I should write for?

    In my own mind, I’m the only one that exists, well the other three voices don’t count because they all share the same upstairs space, so I just write for the sake of writing what I enjoy. If others enjoy it or hate, that’s cool too. Either way, it’s fun to write and create something in this world.

  31. Writing posts where you identify with people’s problems such as “I too struggle with,” or ” This week I have been dealing with,” they will see you as a real person who has dealt with real issues that has real answers. This will help bring value to your posts and increase the likelihood of these readers to turn into repeat viewers and hopefully subscribers.

    Any thoughts on this?

  32. Chris says:

    I’ve only been blogging for about 5 months and can’t imagine not writing to please myself. My friends say that reading my blog is like chatting with me over coffee – and that’s my goal.

    It takes a lot out of me to write this one blog a couple of times a week. I’m trying to find my voice – in my blog and in my artistic pursuits – and it ends up having a very personal tone. I can’t imagine having to juggle several different blogs! .

    I guess when you do it for $$, you can figure out how to juggle more than one. Someday . . .

  33. Shane says:

    Darren – thank you for this. This is exactly the question I have been pondering on my own blog where I was feeling like I needed to write for everyone else but at the same time, I knew that the content wold be lackluster if I were to do that.

    So alas, I feel that by helping others and writing from my own perspectives, I can thus create a more engaged community of like-minded readers :)

  34. Hi Darren! Thanks for this post. It’s good to read some pro blogging (ha! me punny! LOLz all over) advice on writing for self vs. writing for others. My blog is only a few months old, so I’m still very much in the experimenting stage. What works? What doesn’t? Does my actual audience look the same as the audience I’d envisioned?

    Subconsciously, I’m probably trying to strike a balance: blog 50% “for me,” blog 50% “for them.” I write about writing, creativity, and my newly-published novel. I’m passionate about all three subjects. But I’m still trying to figure out which of those three interests my readers the most. I thought they’d want to talk about writing more than anything else — but the creativity posts get the most feedback, and one of my novel-related posts has gotten more traffic than any other single post.

    It’s all a great laboratory! But I do think that as long as I’m having fun with it, my readers will, too. : )

  35. There was a sort of progression at work for my blog. It started out just for me. I wrote about my day, hanging out with my girlfriend. Then I started writing about topics other people might find helpful–for example, having trouble organizing my Macbook and feeling stressed out about various apps, etc. It was still very personal, but the topic was something other people could read and identify with. Then, I started getting more traffic, and I got nervous–I thought that people would not enjoy my blog unless I posted more frequently. So I started curating news, and my blog lost a little bit of its personal element.

    Since that time, my blog’s traffic has continued to increase, but I’ve cut back on merely curating news. I make sure that I always post some useful commentary, and that I only post about topics that truly interest me. I’ve also tried to move back to my original style–using personal anecdotes and helping people organize their digital lives through my own experiences.

    I think I’ve found a good balance, but I’m always trying to improve. I’m very glad I read this article–I will definitely keep this advice in mind any time I write a new post. :)

  36. Archan Mehta says:

    Darren,

    Thanks for sharing. This is a valuable article. It makes you think.

    Ideally, a writer should be able to combine writing for himself/herself in alignment with the target audience.

    To write only for yourself seems, well, rather self-centred. You also need to write for others out there.

    For example, the issues you hold important may not be that meaningful or significant to your target audience or readers. So, try to identify your target audience. Figure out what their needs are; what are their tastes and preferences; what floats their boat and what sinks their boat; and so on.

    In fact, there are a lot of readers out there who may be bored or even resent you if you only give your version of any story. They will switch off. They will tune out. They will turn to another channel. Go figure.

    What do your readers want? Market research can help: find a need and fill it-now that’s entrepreneurship.

    In the end, people don’t care about you. They don’t care about you pushing products and/or services.
    They only care about themselves: how will it make a difference to their lives? Answer that question and you may be in business. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, but it is important to keep in mind.

    Have a good one. Cheers.

  37. Honeybee Art says:

    Ultimately the writer writes for an audience: the writing has to be readable, otherwise very few read it.

    The extreme writing for himself writer might be Leonardo Da Vinci. He wrote in an invented mirror image language. Now it can only be read by an expert or in translation.

    Even so, bloggers have to translate their private thoughts into a readable prose.

    What a blogger Da Vinci would have been!

  38. Terry Dunn says:

    Darren,

    I write for myself too. And I think it’s why I’ve continued to publish my blog for several years. As I’m looking for a post topic, I stop looking when a subject grabs me. In fact I can easily spend too much time reading and discovering before I ever put my fingers to the keyboard, but then I’m always pleased with the article once it’s written.

    It certainly works for me.

    Terry

  39. I definitely write for me Darren. In 2004 I started a business and had no employees… it was just good old me. It failed miserably by 2006. In 2009, I started a new business and started my blog (tinyandmighty.com) to communicate and explore the concept of running a successful “tiny” business.” I just write about what would interest me.

    Great post. Thanks for writing this Darren!

  40. I would say that this definitely works for me…as I would find it extremely difficult to write long term on a topic that holds little interest for me.

    However, I would say that this is in direct opposition to much of what I read on popular blogging sites (such as Copyblogger). The thought is that if you write for yourself you aren’t really considering what your readers want.

    I imagine that there is some truth to the idea of writing for your audience, but writing on a popular topic that is painfully boring for me is a tough sell.

    How do you resolve the gap in between writing for yourself and writing for the broader needs of your audience?

    Great read Darren!

  41. I started 2 blogs at the same time. The one that I stuck at was the one that was truly me and my voice and the information I wanted to share. A blog is a voracious monster and feeding it can be a burden if it’s not on a topic you’re passionate about.

  42. Hi Darren!
    I write for myself – my own learnings, realistions and discoveries and then share those to others. I write it in a way that others could hopefully align with base on their current needs.
    Ros

  43. Aviva says:

    Very interesting perspective.
    My friend was telling me that I should write on what I think would interest people and that I am too narrow in the scope of my blog. However, that which I write about is what I am interested in. Although I have yet to make an Amazon sale off of my blog, I am happy doing it for the writing!

  44. I think you make a good point in talking about the need to write about learning. That’s, at some level, what we’re all doing all of the time.

    Cool post Darren.

  45. A. Irvin says:

    I really like this article, Darren.

    I started my blog for the same reasons you mentioned in your article, and my focus is to build a community around the topics for which I have a personal interest. Yes, I do write in a way that others can understand my thoughts, but I write for myself, using MY thoughts to provoke thoughts from others. So, though I write from a stance of personal investment, I also write to share with others.

    I think what you are really touching upon is the concept of authenticity, which is something I think is very evident in a person’s writing – it’s either there or it isn’t. For me, I become more engaged in reading something written by a person who is personally invested (i.e. passionate) in what they are saying, than I am with canned or parroted advice. If you ask me, I would say that authenticity is more important than simply being gimmicky or clever :-)

  46. You definitely have to write about the topic that you have learned and put into action. That way other people can learn what to do and more importantly WHAT not to do. You can be the solution to their frustrations!!

    Lawrence Bergfeld

  47. Denys Yeo says:

    I enjoyed reading this blog and I agree with your comment that it is OK to use a blog to explore a topic you are interested in. I blog for myself – I live with a life threatening disease and it is hard to know who else to blog for! I blog about things that interest me, if others find what I have to say interesting, that is a bonus.

  48. yeah I write for me. Back in 2008 I was a copy cat blogger and never passionate about my topic until 2010 September. After September I really started to writing my own posts passionately. Before 2010 September I never read any blog like now. And now I’m happy about it very much.

    And anyway your post is smart. and encouraging others to write for them.

  49. Rivka Kawano says:

    This is so true. My first experience in creating web content was for a job hunting website. It was someone else’s brain child, who then decided to move on to other things. I kept going because of all the time already invested, and it seemed like there could be money there. But I grew to hate it, and now I am just trying to sell the whole bunch of content (much of which I never even published online).

    On the flip side, I started a blog reviewing children’s books. I have 3 young children, and we read books every day, so lots of content available. I decided to add a twist by including activities to do with your kids too. This was my passion – my kids, and books. It is still sometimes hard to work up the courage to publish something, but I truly enjoy it.

    While I think the content for both sites was good, what I loved really shone through. And more than that, when it is something I am excited about, I can promote and share it without feeling like a sales person.

  50. Jason Walker says:

    I have to agree with you Darren, I find it so much easier to write for me than for a client. If you are passionate about the topic even if your writing skills are poor you will benefit more. Writing needs to flow and not be forced.