Beware the indifference... or hostility... of readers.
Do you write with the intention of having people eagerly read your work?
In an an interview with The Irish Times' Sara Keating, former U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins spoke words of wisdom to all with ears to hear—that means you and me and all CEOs, founders, and other experts seeking to change the world with their writing.
Where you see the word "poem" in the quote, substitute blog post, or web page, or letter to investors, or whatever it is you're working on.
Where you see the word "poet," substitute CEO, founder, thought leader, or online marketer, which is what you are if you're selling your wares online.
Listen up; this is good stuff.
"When I start a poem, I assume the indifference of readers,” he says. “That there might even be a touch of hostility. There is a line from a Patrick Kavanagh poem that really resonates. It goes: ‘Tomorrow’s Wednesday. Who cares?’ Well, the reader can’t be expected to be interested in your life, the life of a stranger. The job of the poet is to seduce the reader, to make sure they are interested, to make something happen for them that is unexpected.”
It is about achieving a balance between “clarity and mystery”, he says. “It’s important to know which card to turn over and which to lay face-down. But the beginning of a poem should always be very clear, to get a reader on board, and only then can you be confident that when you move into less obvious areas of metaphor or fantasy that they will go with you. It is like an eye chart, with its big E at the top, and the letters getting less legible as it moves along. A poem should be like that.”
As should a blog post and an article and a web page and an ebook and an email.
Our work should draw people in ... keep them reading ... and leave them wanting more.
And that, dear reader, is the secret to good online writing, the kind of writing that leads people to want to back your mission, invest in your company, join your team, sign up, click here, click there, download this, purchase that.
But here's the thing—to begin, we must assume that the reader is ready to say "Who cares?!?" to whatever we publish.
Your website? Who cares?!?
Your blog post? Who cares?!?
Your email? Who cares?!?
And against THAT backdrop, we write to MAKE people care.
We write to show them, tell them, why what they're about to read is important to THEM, in their worlds, in their lives.
When you accomplish that task, you've won a large part of the thought-leadership writing battle.