How to Overcome Writer's Block by Knowing Your Readers
Was talking with a talented and successful writer about a new book she was working on. She was looking for how to overcome writer's block and quit procrastinating so she could get the thing done. So I asked her one, seemingly simple, question:
"Who do you see reading your book?"
Silence on the other end of the phone line.
In my book coaching work, when I experience awkward silences in reply to the "reader" question, I realize that not being able to immediately answer this question means that this might be the primary writer's block keeping the writer from moving forward.
Why is answering this so difficult? And how can writers get over this?
Self Expression versus Communication and Connection
Art—and writing IS art—is self expression. For writers of all types and skill levels, the opportunity to express what is in their hearts and heads—in whatever way strikes their fancy—can be a very freeing and fulfilling experience which should not be discouraged or discounted.
However, the difficulty comes in when these writers want to then sell and share their work. Creations with primarily personal significance may be misunderstood by large segments of the population. Frustration ensues, sales are non-existent and these writers feel as though no one understands them (they got that right!) and they just give up.
The writer's block, hesitation and confusion these writers feel can be symptoms of a much larger problem of not knowing how to communicate and connect with their readers since they don't know who their readers are in the first place (and sometimes don't care).
Once you have your ideal reader profile complete, get a picture of this ideal reader in your head every time you start writing.— Heidi Thorne
9 Questions to Build Your Ideal Reader Profile
Writers hoping to actually sell their work should create an ideal reader profile for the entire body of work and/or a specific work, such as a book, article, etc. This is really Marketing 101! And, yes, it applies to BOTH nonfiction and fiction writing.
To help build your reader profile and understand how it can affect what and how you write, answer these questions about your reading audience:
- What is their gender... and what is yours? Although much writing may be gender neutral, that whole "Mars and Venus" gender communication theory can be very real if your work appeals more to one than the other. Also, if you're writing for the opposite gender, you might have to switch roles in your head.
- What are their ages? This is a multi-part question. First, you need to know what age, in years, they are. Second, you need to know in what generation they are. For example, writing a children's book is a completely different experience than writing a suspense novel for adults. And writing for Baby Boomer teenagers was definitely different than writing for Millennial teens.
- What is their likely educational level? In addition to age, educational maturity will affect the style and vocabulary of what you write. More educated audiences tend to have vocabularies that are wider and more erudite (yeah, they'd understand that word).
- What are their roles, professions and/or industries? Even if their job is something such as "mom," everyone has a role or a job in this world. This will determine what types of written material may be of interest to them.
- What are their core values? What people believe colors how they understand and interpret what they read, regardless of what the writer intends. If you don't know how your audience might respond, be prepared for anything from "meh" to a maelstrom.
- What are their personality traits? Is your audience fun loving, serious, fearful, energetic... the list could go on and on. Try to come up with at least a few words or phrases that would describe your audience's common personality traits.
- Where do most of them live? In some locations and cultures, there are topics or ways of saying and doing things that are completely taboo. Like core values, disrespect these and you might repel, or even offend, your readership.
- What are their hobbies and interests? Whether it's biking, stamp collecting, history or cooking, what people do for recreation or avocation affects their lifestyle, sometimes as much or more than what they do for a living. It may also influence, or be a result of, their core values.
- What are their pain points? This would be a follow-up question to the last four. As a result of what your audience does and believes, what concerns are uppermost in their minds? Can you address, or at least be respectful of, those concerns in what you write?
Put Your Ideal Reader Profile to Work with these 2 Questions
Once you have your ideal reader profile complete, get a picture of this ideal reader in your head every time you start writing and ask yourself:
- How would I say this to my ideal reader if I could speak to him/her in person?
- How would he/she likely feel about, or respond to, what I just said?
Disclaimer: Both the publisher and author have used their best efforts in preparation of this information. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed and both parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice and strategies presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional advisor where and when appropriate. Neither the publisher nor author shall be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential or punitive, arising from or relating to your reliance on this information.
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© 2015 Heidi Thorne