An article in Inc. reminds us that today’s publishing landscape has changed so much that publishers want to see that you already have an audience–what many refer to as having a platform. Yet worrying about building your audience can be one pretty powerful deterrent to writing, contributing to writer’s block. Writing something that people are interested in reading requires an understanding of your audience. But if you are worried about audience, that worry can stifle creativity, innovation, and for some people, end you up in a place where you are too frozen to go anywhere.
Clearly, this magazine and article is geared towards businesspeople and others who no doubt already have a measure of courage and success. Yet because this has become such commonly accepted advice, I think it’s important to remember that this constant message to build your audience and platform can ironically also be a block to drafting and developing your ideas.
Teachers in writing classrooms often refer to something called “the believing game.” This is when you approach what you are reading with an open, accepting mind BEFORE you get critical and judge the ideas. Similarly, writers need to learn to play the believing game with their own writing to explore its potential. It may not be immediately clear who your audience might be–this is particularly true of fiction. Some writers recommend you write for one person (real or imaginary). Many children’s stories were originally written for a specific child.
Play the believing game by fully engaging in and letting yourself explore your ideas. Use journaling, brainstorming techniques, even pictures! Give yourself time to work with the idea and get close to it before you start thinking about audience. Trust in that. Remember that worrying about who might read it and whether or not it’s “publish-worthy” is something that should be avoided as much as possible. Give yourself the permission to chew on the idea, play with it, experiment. Taking that time to develop your idea is the essential first step to eventually building an audience. That takes work, too, but in order to draw people to it, you need to invest the energy, passion, and development to the work so that, like a beacon, others will see its strengths, too.