Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.
How do you write honest and compelling content that will change people's lives? Easy. Write for yourself. Sounds counter-intuitive, but it works.
Writing for yourself will free you from the pressure to impress. It will release you to write what you really need to write — the good, honest material that will truly move people (starting with you).
Done? Great. Now, let's talk about the how.
How to write for yourself
Writing for yourself is the only way to begin writing, in my opinion. You take your audience into account in the editing and tweaking process. You start, though, by writing for you.
Sometimes, quite frankly, you just need to write for yourself with no aspirations of publishing anything. But in my experience, this is the best way to build an audience. I know. The irony is thick.
Writing for yourself allows you to turn off the internal critic and be more sincere in your writing. It unlocks your passion. And this is attractive to other people.
As a result, some of my best writing has come from writing for myself. If this idea is foreign to you, here's how to do it:
The unexamined life is not worth living (or writing about).
—Socrates (parentheses — and slight paraphrase — mine)
What upsets you? What do you find frustrating? What really ticks you off? Take note of that. Free-write. Spend time exploring the why of this. Maybe this bothers other people, too.
Type up a few rants. See what it does for your soul. This is merely an exercise to get you started. If it takes you somewhere, let it.
Call yourself out
Issue a challenge to Yours Truly.
In the safety of anonymity (remember, you're writing for yourself here), call out some unhealthy or unproductive habit or tendency that you have.
Don't do it in a self-effacing way. God knows that we creatives don't need another self-inflicted brow-beating. Do it in a powerful and motivational way.
This is my favorite way to challenge people, by being painfully honest about a personal struggle of my own. Some of my most powerful blog articles were written from this place of dissatisfaction with myself.
Solve your own problem
I do this a lot. It begins with the self-examination. I look at what bugs me — in the world, in our culture, in myself — and then I realize that I probably have the tools to solve that problem. Or at least, I know what the solution is.
Solving problems is, obviously, a lucrative business (look at the self-help section in your local book store, if you still have one, that is). So we have to be careful.
You need to solve a real problem, not just make one up to make money (people actually do this).
Solving your own problem gives your the experience and expertise to help others. You, essentially, write your own testimonial. This makes you more trustworthy. When you say, “I did this and it worked for me” as opposed to,”I think you should do this,” people are more inclined to listen.
Let's get started
If it's been awhile since you've written just for you (or perhaps you've never done this), then I suggest you take a mini writing retreat. Take some time today, grab a notebook and start writing.
This is a workout for your creativity. It's not Game Day; it's practice. You may need to unplug from the your blog and other social connections to really make this successful. But it's worth it.
Best of luck.
Get back to the heart of writing
I firmly believe that writing comes from the heart. But sometimes we lose ourselves in the craft. We become obsessed with people's affirmation and what critics think.
If you feel more like a wanderer than a leader, it may be time to take a break from the accolades and write just for yourself. You might be surprised by what comes out.