When I first started writing, I remember getting a piece of advice that stuck with me. I was told, “above all else, make sure you have a call-to-action or insight, some value to offer in exchange for the readers time.”
There's some truth to this, and I think the idea is generally a good one, but it’s also a dangerous way to look at things. Actionable takeaways are a nice touch, but they aren't the most important thing. Turns out, they aren't your audience's focus and shouldn't be yours either.
What Readers Care About
If you've never seen Simon Sinek's excellent talk, How Great Leaders Inspire Action, I highly recommend giving it a watch. While the whole thing is gold, Sinek's main point can be summed up below:
People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it and what you do simply proves what you believe. In fact, people will do the things that prove what they believe. The reason that person bought the iPhone in the first six hours, stood in line for six hours, was because of what they believed about the world, and how they wanted everybody to see them: they were first. People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it.
I'll repeat that for emphasis: People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it.
Let's apply this to writing. At first glance, people read your writing to learn something or, at the very least, take something valuable away from it. This remains true. But Sinek would argue there's another layer.
Readers will come for what you’re saying, but they will keep coming back for why you’re saying it.
Despite being surrounded by tools that enable social interaction, we are lonelier than ever. We all ache for connection. Believe it or not, the reader cares.
Talk about yourself. Give context from your experiences. Connect first, and then worry about advice. It's more valuable than you think.
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