Reader Question: How To Choose What To Write About For Your Personal Blog

I received a reader question that basically relates to how to choose what to write about for your blog/book/etc. Here’s the full question I received -

“I’d be semi-interested in reading how you feel about writers asking “what do you want to read about from me?” But I won’t hold my breath… ’cause we both know that what moves you to write it is what I’d wanna read from you.”

This is a really interesting – very “meta” question. I chose to cover it in the audio blog post above. Just click play to hear my answer. Below are quick notes from the recording.

Answer from a reader’s perspective: You still want to read something that aligns with your own interests and preferences. You may be a huge fan of someone – but typically you’re a fan of someone because of what they produce. Example – the reception of John Grisham’s Skipping Christmas.

Answer from a writer’s perspective: You want people to read what you produced. That means understanding why your readers are big fan of you. And understanding what non-fans might be interested in (think an indie band producing a radio-friendly song – example here).

The Formula I Use

Create something that balances 3 elements:

1. What you can write about
2. What you want to write about
3. What your readers will be interested in

You have to have all 3 elements for something to actually be read, shared & searched for.

Bonus from reader GirlPie comments’ below: Writing what ONLY YOU can write will add even more magic to point #1

To get ideas on what your readers will be interested in, you can ask your current ones, look at competitors, use the Google Keyword Planner, use Google autocomplete or Google Trends (among other ideas).

If you have something you’d like for me to write on – contact me via this form!

Comments

  1. says

    Thanks for the useful post, Nate — the three points you work to satisfy in your own posts makes a swell checklist, and putting the question into a context for both the Reader and the Author is helpful.

    But thinking about some of my favorite writers (who could describe how they brush their teeth and still make make me happy), as you used a few examples, reminds me that most of us — well, me, at least — read for different reasons.

    When I read blog posts, it’s for either HOW the content I’m interested in is delivered, or by WHOM it’s delivered. The best read for me is info that’s delivered in a USEFUL way (how), or by a TRUSTED ADVISER (whom). In a rare case, a great “voice” (say, Naomi Dunford), can write on a topic I’m only semi-interested in (small biz marketing, in her case), but I love reading her and I find I can apply nearly anything she writes to my own world.

    When I read for entertainment, short stories, fiction, or (what we used to call) “Features” (say, Joyce Wadler in the NYT), then your point of reading someone because you like what they always write feels dead-on. Wadler’s sharp humor about the boomer world in NYC works; I’d be bummed if she tackled Ukrainian politics. (Or maybe she’d kill at it, she’s very talented…)

    But when bloggers (whom I do not read) ask the world (as they seem to frequently on twitter), “what should I write about?” my knee-jerk reaction is “it’s your job to know your audience, don’t have me do your homework for you.” I’m snide that way. I do understand they’re asking to be sure to serve their audience, and they don’t know that I’m not their blog Reader, and all your points are valid, but still — it seems a Writer who has something to say is of more value to me than a Writer catering to my interests…

    And I’d add one more element to your checklist that can set a Writer apart:
    “Write what ONLY YOU can write.”
    Not a report on the trail’s elevation and view, but how That particular day-3 blister led you to discover That certain pool beside That sheltered bend on That side the the stream where you witnessed That unforgettable Eagle mend its wing with That spider’s web… well, I’m not a nature girl and have no idea what I’m talking about, but I hope you get my rambling point.

    But again — anything you want to write about, I enjoy reading. And you have a wonderful voice, very nicely done audio, thank you.

    • Nate says

      Thank you GirlPie! This is all really solid insight. I definitely agree that asking your readers what to write about (or simply finding a random keyword you can compete for, etc) should never be a creative crutch – or guide content strategy. And everything should be done in moderation.

      I think the struggle for writers getting established (or businesses for that matter) is that they focus so much on themselves – their passions and experiences – and never really answer the question of “why should anyone care?” Even if you don’t directly poll your readers or do research, simply imagining yourself in a stranger’s shoes can go a long way to creating a worthwhile piece of content.

      And yes – agree on the “Write what ONLY YOU can write” – editing the post to include that :)

      Thanks again!

      • says

        So smart to consider the newer blogger who, as you suggest, Nate, may not have practice fighting the “diary demon.”
        Keeping the Reader in mind — setting the scene, clarifying insider vocabulary, widening the range of take-aways, (or in my case, not being such a bossy opinionator!), etc. — can be the difference between a good story and a good story that *connects.*
        Thanks for keeping writers of all levels in mind.

        • Nate says

          Well said, well said. I’m going to put “setting the scene, clarifying insider vocabulary, widening the range of take-aways” into my notes on writing.

          Thank you!