Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

One Weird Way to Get a Larger Audience

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When I rebooted with blogging, I learned an unexpected but important lesson. 

I wanted to narrow my topic and gain a larger audience but never expected to learn something so crucial and necessary, something that made all the difference. 

What was this realization?

I wasn’t as good as I thought.

Larger Audience

Photo credit: Justin Scott Campbell (Creative Commons)

I’ve been writing my whole life. My high school English teacher told me to go into journalism. In college, I was a writing tutor. I’ve written magazine articles, edited books, and more. But when I finally faced the facts, I had to realize something: I just wasn’t that good.

Can you relate?

You may be struggling. You may be frustrated. You may be thinking: Does anyone care what I have to say? Why aren’t people listening? When will I get the platform I deserve?

Of course, we don’t always say these things out loud, but we think them. Boy, do we ever think them.

The answer to your problem may not be to persevere, to simply try harder. In fact, I have an alternative option — one that goes beyond seven-step articles and marketing hype.

If you want to build a larger audience, do this one simple thing: GET BETTER.

When no one’s looking

The other day, my friend Edward Paz wrote a brilliant article about this topic, and he asked the question,

What do you do when when no one’s paying attention to you?

The answer? Practice.

This is what we do when the world is enamored with mediocrity, when everyone around us seems to be in a race to the bottom. We step back, take our time, and improve. We practice.

We turn down the self-promotion and tune out the distractions, and we work. We work very, very hard. We focus and build our craft. And guess what? We actually get better.

What we’d rather do

It’s tempting to get louder. To talk more. To try and out-shout the competition or coerce our way into influence. But rarely do these tactics work.

Instead, try a more subversive means of building your tribe: Be quiet. Hide yourself away; spend time becoming absolutely indispensable. Don’t build your own stage; let people find you.

It’s better to be remarkable in the dark than to prematurely toot your own horn. (Tweet that, if you like.)

The problem is we’re all so paranoid about never getting discovered. Which is ridiculous. This is not the Middle Ages. We have the Internet, for crying out loud. You don’t need to wait to be discovered; you’ve already been discovered!

People are watching you, whether you realize it or not. The question is: What are you showing them?

What do you think? Do we build a larger audience by getting louder — or better? Share in the comments.

About Jeff Goins

I help people tell better stories and make a difference in the world. My family and I live outside of Nashville, TN. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus. Check out my new book, The In-Between. To get exclusive updates and free stuff, join my newsletter.

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  • http://www.thepanamericans.net Mark David Robertson

    “It’s better to be remarkable in the dark than to prematurely toot your own horn.” Lovely insight. I think of the great mystic writers. ‘The Cloud of Unknowing,’ for instance, didn’t even have a byline. There’s this whole higher economy of attention that I’m trying to get used to. The read/write web offers less friction for writing–more tribal opportunities, as you say. But there remains the time to go quietly into the dark, and allow the calculus of attention to do its thing. 
    Good word, Jeff.
    M

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Thanks, Mark. Beautifully stated.

  • http://twitter.com/johnlambert John Lambert

    Very good article Jeff.  I really appreciate your candor.  If we are doing what we love, I think its easier to just be practicing and improving rather than trying to become known.  

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      right, john. but even with passion, you may resent practice. the important part is to persevere.

  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    Always be learning, refining, and getting better. Excellence takes time. But don’t be afraid to ship. Perfection never comes.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Agreed

  • http://betsycross.blogspot.com Betsy Cross

    Very strange day today. Feeling like I’ve lost my bearings! Doesn’t happen often. Thought I might take the day off from writing ’cause it felt like there wasn’t anything left in my soul to write about. Then I read this and realized what could help me out is to focus on what I love when it comes to writing. I haven’t looked at my family history for a few days now. That’s where I get my material… Thanks for the reminder. My heart has been trying to pay attention to exactly this thought all morning!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      keep pressing in and pushing thru, betsy.

  • http://www.myoneresolution.com/ Don McAllister

    Great advice, Jeff! I remember reading edward’s post and it was really inspiring as well. We just have to keep practicing and improving our craft. That’s all. 

  • http://jonfulk.com Jon Fulk

    But I want a short cut!!  What you’re talking about here is definitely the toughest lesson to learn.  Since I started blogging seriously a few months ago, it has tested my patience like nothing else.  Our culture has mislead us to believe that hard work is not as valuable as sex appeal, so one would think that a sexy blog would catch on overnight like wild fire.  (not that mine is all that sexy, but you get my point).  It’s definitely the complete opposite.  I like that writing is so transparent.  You can’t really fake it, and no matter how much you dress it up, you either bring it or you don’t.  Thanks for sharing your wisdom, Jeff!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      me, too. unfortunately, there’s not one.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the encouragement today. I’m going to try and look into getting a book on helping me with my writing (even though I think I’m a good writer – always room to grow!).

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      my first recommendation is the war of art

  • http://www.jasonvana.com Jason Vana

    Get Better. That’s what I’m working on. Thanks for this Jeff!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      me too

  • http://avajae.blogspot.com Ava Jae

    You’re one of the few bloggers I read who repeatedly makes me think wow when I read your posts. 

    You’re 100% right. We shouldn’t worry about not getting discovered or never being good enough–we need to focus on practice. On getting better. Period. 

    Fantastic post, Jeff. You continue to impress me with your insight. 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      thanks, ava.

  • http://thepaperskies.com David Helms

    It’s all about reveling in the blessings of invisibility.  This is the time to screw up, learn from it and get better.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      David, brilliantly said. I LOVE that.

  • Mbetters

    I wish I had seen this earlier.  It’s exactly the kick in the butt I needed.  Great post!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      i like kicking butts.

  • Abby Pimentel

    Thank you.  You are a source of encouragement.  Thank you!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      you’re welcome.

  • http://profiles.google.com/matthew.la.snyder Matthew Snyder

    I’m reminded of the Proverb that says, “humility comes before honor.” I feel like we’re more apt to be torn down and to fail when we prematurely exalt ourselves. We’re better off pressing deeper into wisdom and growing ourselves up and allowing others to do the “honoring” for us. 

    If that makes sense…

  • http://www.facebook.com/kristin.nador Kristin Nador

    Great post, Jeff. We need the paradigm shift that small beginnings can make a strong foundation, not a pitiful end.Our current small readership gives us the ability to experiment, to practice and to get feedback for getting better from our faithful band of readers, if we’ll only ask them to participate in our education. And of course read better blogs than ours to encourage us. You’re in my top ten. Thanks for the encouragement.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      right. don’t despise small beginnings.

  • http://talesofwork.com kimanzi constable

    I want to show people they don’t have to settle for jobs they hate or aren’t right for them just because we have a bad economy. I hope what I write inspires people to go after the work they are truly called too!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      amen. love that!

  • http://www.charlesspecht.com Charles Specht

    Practice makes perfect…or so the imperfect have spewed once or twice.  I’m not seeking perfection (for I have that in Christ) but “better.”  And Lord willing I’ll achieve that today!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      right. practice makes better.

  • Chris

    Excellent post! One line that really stuck with me was “It’s better to be remarkable in the dark…”

    I’ve been writing for a long time, but have been struggling for the last 2 years or so with my writing. Tried blogging in the past and unsuccessfully maintained them. I had a short burst of creativity about a year ago and sent out a few short stories to publications but had them turned down. After that, I haven’t written much more than a paragraph.

    Unfortunately, I’m not a full-time writer, as much as I’d like to be. I’m a Psychologist for the Department of Education by day, which makes it very difficult to find time to focus on writing. So now, I’ve began the hard trek at regaining my creativity with hopes of becoming a full-time writer at somepoint.

    The problem is, I get frustrated and lose patience. Give up. Put things off. Because of my lack of creativity and production, I look for instant gratification and rushing to get noticed. Which is why that one line hit me so hard. I thank you for knocking some sense into me this morning.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      chris, just from reading this post, I know that you ARE a writer. believe it.

  • http://twohourblogger.com Martyn Chamberlin

    Dude. That empty theater is really intimidating. Glad I’m not a public speaker haha. 

    This is a good article. I’m thinking about writing an article on how to get your first thousand subscribers. It’s about 16 words long, and it goes like this:

    (1) Start a blog
    (2) Write 99 blog posts
    (3) Trash the blog.
    (4) Start a new one.
    (5) Guest blog

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Excellent.

  • http://allthingsloss.wordpress.com Kevin Mackesy

    This goes along with the manifesto…and the Christian faith.  We should be excellent at what we do, but should always check our motives for why we do it.  Is it to make much of ourselves (i.e. “tooting our own horn”) or is it to make much of Christ (i.e. “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do all to the glory of Christ”)? 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      right. intention is key.

  • http://www.freelancewriter.co/ Harleena Singh

    That is so true Jeff! I guess sitting quiet and getting away from things to introspect and practice would make a lot of difference to way things are. 

    Thanks for sharing :)

  • Katherine Owen

    This is a great post. I have been doing this. I post to my blog when something inspiring hits me. It’s intermittent but that doesn’t seem to stop people from finding it and commenting if they’re inspired. Love your post; it makes me think I’m on the right course. 

    Best,
    Katherine

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      awesome!

  • Carrie Smith

    My mom used to always tell me that practice makes perfect, and she was right. It’s simple, common sense advice, but it’s very effective. Thanks for the excellent advice.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      i disagree. practice makes better.

  • http://twitter.com/CheapLoveCarrie Carrie Starr

    This is a perfect reminder for me.  I have been blogging for seven months with consistent traffic of about a hundred readers.  Every once in a while I have a “big day” of two or three hundred readers and I celebrate! I am hopeful for an eventual “break-out” day when I have the privilege of reaching thousands of people.  The fact is, I have no idea when my big day will come.  As I write, I try not to focus on creating “that” post.  Instead, I focus on sharing what I know.  Writing to the best of my ability.  Being vulnerable and honest and creative, striving to connect with people I haven’t met but long to know.  So thanks for reminding me to write consistently and well.  When the crowd is ready for me, I will be ready for them! =)

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      way to go for it, Carrie! you’re on the right track.

  • http://twitter.com/JuliaDAlexander Julia D. Alexander

    Seems I need to hear this about once a week!
    I think I’m finally figuring out that you can ever “master” writing. Like learning to play guitar, you just keep improving, moving to the next level. And you’re only limited by your own practice. The onus is on me, the power is in my hands. But I gotta do the work.

    Thank you for this. 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      well said. and the better you get, the more you realize how bad you are. at least, that’s what I’m learning.

  • Tiffanyberkowitz

    Jeff.. This is really… really good.
    I can resonate with it for sure.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      thanks, tiffany. i’m glad.

  • http://heathersunseri.com Heather Sunseri

    Oh. My. Goodness. You are so right. I’ve been so close to realizing this, but this post really drove the point home. It’s not really about trying harder, necessarily, but about trying. And then trying again. Maybe it’s about trying different things. Maybe it’s about trying the same thing, only differently.

    Okay, I’m rambling. Thanks for this. I needed it, for sure.

    • http://www.ricardobueno.com Ricardo Bueno

      Heather: Don’t forget to silence the inner critic. And remember, you’re ideas are already better than  you think they are :-) 

      • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

        amen

  • http://www.ricardobueno.com Ricardo Bueno

    Re: “Don’t build your own stage; let people find you. It’s better to be remarkable in the dark than to prematurely toot your own horn.”

    I really dig this part. I’m starting a new series on my blog dedicated to writing everything I know about my niche. I haven’t raised a big stink about it, instead, I’m just going to write, and share and let people find it/stumble upon it. The way I see it, I don’t need to convince people it’s going to be a great series and it’s going to be helpful. Instead, I’m convinced my advocates will find it, and share it as they see fit. 

    Bad strategy? Maybe. These days, I’m just more focused on doing my best to deliver value. I don’t need to talk about why it’s valuable nor should I have to try and convince anyone.

    Talk less, do more. <== That's my outlook moving forward. 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      mine, too, richardo!

  • Anonymous

    Curious. When you rebooted your blog, did you change your URL, too, or did you just restart? Great post. Enjoy your insights and passion. Jon

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      New URL. New site. New design. New content.

      • Anonymous

        I like it. Bold pays off! Thanks for the response!

  • http://davidsantistevan.com David Santistevan

    A very sobering, healthy reminder here, Jeff. It’s natural for me to want to shout louder and more often to get recognized. Sometimes the best thing we can do is shut up and improve in the shadows. 

    Bro, your blog is a little too good. I think you should slack off a bit :)

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      I’ll get right on that!

  • http://somewiseguy.com ThatGuyKC

    Loved the bit on it not being the Middle Ages. Awesome. I’m in a phase of ramping up Some Wise Guy, but have a planned quieter period in November. Got a book to work on. :)

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      well i love medieval times and all…

  • http://KatieAx.blogspot.com Katie Axelson

    Bah!  I like the Middle Age comment!
    (I like the rest of the post too, of course).
    Katie

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      thanks, katie!

  • http://twitter.com/stellfoxkendell Kendell Stellfox

    Great post!  Our generation really needs to live this out!!!  We all need a large dose of humility and hard work in the dark, so that we can be a might force for our Lord’s Kingdom.  Love your tweet – “There is no way to your destiny that doesn’t involve brokenness.”

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Amen. Thanks kendell.

  • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

    I like your honesty, clarity in writing, and advice. You shine! (which is better than “You rock!”). :-)

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      you glisten!

  • http://adamsokoloff.com AdamSok

    Jeff, you make an outstanding point here.  There is a constant buzzing to be present, to post, to socialize, to engage.  What if we posted less, tweeted less, engaged less?  Would we be more in demand?  Quite possibly, but it’s very hard to turn off. 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      interesting

  • Matt

    Wow, I can relate to what you’re saying! I am still starting out with blogging, and when you talk about improving yourself, I would express it as  “increasing value”. It’s all about value…

    Great post Jeff! Very inspiring.

  • David

    Jeff,

    I’m puzzled. When someone mentions hard work, I think of it as something very demanding, something that comes pretty darned close to punishment. That’s why I don’t take up long distance running or skiing or some other dreadful activity. In contrast, I view the honing of my writing skills as an enjoyable challenge.

    David

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Excellent, David. I think of running as enjoyable, too, but that doesn’t mean practice doesn’t hurt sometimes.

  • http://randomnessofkulasa.blogspot.com/ Angel

    This fits me so well. I would work my way to be better. :)

  • http://elijahbee.com Elijah Bee

    +2

  • http://www.jenwagenmaker.blogspot.com/ Jennifer Wagenmaker

    Great advice.  I think taking a break to redirect yourself is incredibly healthy.  I am finding that my initial dream hasn’t changed, but that I have had to be open to new ideas on how to get there. 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      That’s great, Jennifer.

  • Scrollwork

    “…the world is enamored with mediocrity” — that explains it! I’ve wasted too much time banging my head on the wall wondering why boring blogs and boring products attract fawning fans and lemming customers. It was enough to make me slow down with my posts and fabric art. I will continue to create at a quality pace (in contrast to the fast-food equivalent), but now I have the right reason to do so. Thanks, Jeff.

  • http://unveiledwife.com Unveiled WIfe

    Thanks for the encouragement and advice!

  • http://twitter.com/MarciaFord Marcia Ford

    I’ve just emerged from two years away from blogging and doing all those things I was supposed to do to gain a larger audience—but not away from writing and editing. The truth, I discovered, is that I don’t care about a large audience. I care that I’m communicating with the people who most need what I have to offer. If a large, receptive audience results from that communication, wonderful. If not, wonderful. I’m doing what I’m called to do, which in part is to help others become better writers.

    • http://twitter.com/PatWooldridge Patricia Wooldridge

      Marcia Ford, I love that reaching those who most need what you can give, is  your main interest! I can see that you are very comfortable with what that leads to, whether your receptive audience is large or not. I’m taking a lesson from this. Thank you.

  • http://twitter.com/JohnRichardBell John R. Bell

    When I see the word “practice” I think “mastery” which is the crux of Jeff’s message.  George Leonard said, “those we know as masters are dedicated to the fundamentals of their calling. They are zealots of practice, connoisseurs of the small, incremental step. At the same time, these people are precisely the ones who are likely to challenge previous limits, to take risks for the sake of higher performance, and seen to become obsessive at times in that pursuit.”

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Wow, John. I LOVE that quote!

  • http://shawnsmucker.com/ Shawn Smucker

    Great post.

  • http://www.frymonkeys.com Alan Kay

    Thx Jeff for another great post. Every case is different. I definitely don’t want a larger audience. I do want a clear audience where I fully understand the value I bring to them. My struggle is to get people to respond to my blog, but I’m OK with that – it just means I have yet to figure out what value will be brining them when I do get it right. So, stepping back sounds like a good idea.    

  • http://profiles.google.com/lialondon.g Lia London

    No problem following your advice, Jeff.  I seem to have no choice but to stay in obscurity! :)

    It’s true, though, what you’re saying.  Getting better is much more effective than getting louder.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      :)

  • http://friendedbyChrist.com Tim Bordeaux

    Very helpful. Thanks. It is hard to wait to be discovered. Especially when your mom thinks you’re wonderful. :)

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      SO hard! But also good… and character-forming.

  • http://themarketingconnoisseur.wordpress.com/ Dionne Baldwin

    This is some simple but very powerful advice.  This isn’t like talking to someone face to face where in some cases people get louder and more frantic trying to be heard.  :)  I will be sharing your post on my site.  We can all benefit from this.

  • Pingback: Check out the competition & get a larger audience. | The Marketing Connoisseur

  • Lucy Arden

    Another great post that I couldn’t help but read when I saw the title. I see both the pros and cons of this idea–while I’m not going to get followers immediately, I will, in the long run, be paving the way for more followers and readers. Thanks for sharing this–I’ll try to tune out the distractions and hone my craft.

    -Lucy from http://www.howtowriteandwritewell.blogspot.com

  • http://www.MorrisMatters.com/ Dwayne Morris

    EXCELLENT perspective. In a spiritual sense, you sort of want to see what God can do…right? What fun is there in being able to say you did it all? Thanks for the reminder!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Good point, Dwayne. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/KurisuTori Chris Triff

    I’ve taken so many nothing photos of things around my desk to learn the little nuances of photography.  This can be applied to so many skills.  Lots of time practicing for no one’s benefit other than our own.  It leads to more confidence when it does count in my opinion. 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      My wife’s a photographer. I totally know how that goes.

  • http://hugmomma.blogspot.com/ Hugmomma

    I’m happy for you that you were so quickly able to find blessings in challenging circumstances. I agree with you that getting better is the key to being heard. If for no other reason, the better the quality of your voice, the quieter your audience will silence that they don’t miss your melody.

  • http://twitter.com/Sammliving Samm

    “People are watching you, whether you realize it or not. The question is: What are you showing them?” — Love it jeff.. this line tells it all.. :) 

  • Arun Trikha

    By going better;www.24hscience.com

  • Martina

    Can you leave some useful links to improving your writing?

  • rolizatoiletspares.co.uk

    Nice post, i love it

  • Fiona Tarr

    My question is do you publish the practise or keep it hidden?

  • FC Gallo

    So how do you build a larger audience? Let’s say I’m ready, and I’m good. How are people going to find me? Any more concrete ideas besides, Getting good at it? Thanks. Also, I don’t think that answering the question by pointing me into a maze of links that go to your own articles, which eventually lead me into buying your book is a very good strategy. It’s deceitful and exasperating. That’s the reason why I didn’t purchase your Tribe Writers package. I tell you this because I would like to see you do well, and because I also feel like I’m wasting my time reading your posts.

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