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Building Your Own Audience Based on What You Love

Passion is the secret to making good content and building a following

I woke up yesterday morning, like most mornings, playing the alarm snooze game. I had some vivid dreams … I was at a recording studio, an old abandoned mall, and at one point I was wrangling a blue and orange man into the back of a van, then through the kitchen of a fancy restaurant. Why would I ever want to get out of bed with that kind of entertainment? Especially when I know what’s waiting for me – that old familiar tormentor, the voice in my head.

“We’ve got to pay bills today,” my inner voice tells me.

I know, I know, I replied.

“We have to call the guy about the video project too.”

Got it.

“And, don’t forget, we have to work out today too.”

Yes, thanks for reminding me.

So, I manage to pull myself up onto the edge of the bed, staring out the window. The Venetian blinds are closed, but I can feel the cold and nasty outside. Another dull rainy day, trapped in a house that seems to be shrinking by the minute. It gets smaller and smaller the longer my family attempts to live, work and go to school all in the same place, thanks to COVID-19.

But, there HAS been a silver lining. My writing. I had always enjoyed writing, but over the past few months it became a passion. I even started thinking that I might be able to do it professionally (whatever that means these days).

For some reason, I was feeling really down. Aside from the normal life problems, worrying about money, politics, and health, I couldn’t shake the idea that I was just spinning my tires, working hard at nothing. I had been pouring so much of my heart and soul into writing. In a short four months, I had written a book about spiritual awakening, a short story (fiction), and probably a dozen fairly involved blog posts / articles. I should be proud of that. But all that went through my head was: NO ONE CARES. No one is reading it. There are so many writers out there, the world doesn’t need another one, I thought.

Pretty depressing, right? Yes it was.

That afternoon, after Heather was done overseeing virtual school for our 3 kids, we went out to vote (Keith Richards for president! (joking)) and to get some groceries (it’s so exciting just to get out of the house lately.) We listened to David Tennant’s podcast in the car (it’s amazing, by the way.) He was interviewing Neil Gaiman, one of our all-time favorite authors. They talked about the writing process, and thankfully, I was hearing exactly what I needed to perk me up.

One of the questions David asked Neil was: how do you know who will make it or not (as a writer)?

His reply: “The ones who consistently polish the chair with their ass each day.”

In other words, the ones who continue writing (ass in chair), because they love it. They keep at it, even after their first novel flops, and their second novel flops … they keep going.

I knew exactly what he meant. Before COVID, I had a habit of pursuing most things in life, not because I loved them, but in order to “get” somewhere. But now I was compelled to write each day purely out of love. I enjoyed doing even if no one ever reads it or buys it.

It was as if I had just stumbled upon this new thing inside myself, that had always been there, that fired up EVERYTHING in my life. My video production work, my music, my relationships – it all got better, because I had found a way to satisfy my soul. I became more playful and more inspired. I was more “whole” – more confident, and less needy! You know what I mean by needy … needing praise and needing people to stroke my ego, to quell that insecurity deep in my gut. There was less of that now.  

Obviously, finding my passion had brought many indirect benefits. But, WHO SAYS no one will read what I’m writing? That’s just another bullshit story I’m telling myself. I just need to get some clarity on what exactly I’m trying to accomplish here.

The other critical part I gleaned from the Neil Gaiman conversation was the understanding that, the more I write, the better I’ll get, and the more I’ll find my own voice and my own audience. Good stuff finds a way to the top, and good stuff finds an audience (without gimmicks or slick marketing.)

By consistently writing for and sharing specifically to my own “custom made” audience, I start to develop relationships. And relationships make the world go ’round. People who know, like and trust me are likely to buy my book when I put it out. They are also likely to refer someone to my business. They know who I am.

But it’s not just a matter of writing and sending out a weekly email. There’s a lot of clutter out there, and people are busy – and people are jaded.

So, how do you stand out? By making people feel something.

How do you do that? By being real, raw, genuine, and vulnerable. Go deep into who you are and what you know. The right people will resonate.

It might take a little while, but in the meantime, it will empower you in other ways. The momentum created by feeding your passion will bring opportunities that you had never even thought of.

It doesn’t have to be writing. Do you make physical art, furniture, paintings? Take a series of pictures and turn it into a blog post. Consistently share your work. But don’t just post it on social media. Send it personally to people who are interested. In the beginning it may only be 10 people. This is about finding and nurturing a finite audience, making them feel special – talking directly to them. 

Maybe you have a thing for technology hacks. You can share bits of code, Excel shortcuts, and productivity software? You can share links to other articles and just be the curator, adding your own comments. Or, maybe you’re a better talker than a writer. Film yourself being interviewed – have someone ask questions about your expertise and experience, then chop it up into soundbites (they can be transcribed and turned into articles too.)

If you share what you love, that authenticity will attract the right people. And if you create for those people, they will love you back. Passion is the fuel you need to keep going when you start to doubt yourself. But, like I said, you never know what opportunities may arise, and what this process may do FOR you. If you feed your soul and share it, you’ll be amazed at what happens.

Do you have a passion that you might want to build an audience around? I love to brainstorm stuff like this. Let’s talk. I may be able to provide the perspective you need to recognize how and where to get started.

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  1. Scott Scott

    I do not like to write! OK, I said it, but I really like to listen and collaborate. I am more of a counter-puncher. Once there is an idea on the table, I like to look at ways to make it better or just streamline the process. Somewhere in this process, we are going to hit on the right (maybe write) combination. Keep them coming and hope we talk soon.

    • You just said it – you like to work on ideas once they are out there! So, one way you can make regular content to share (if you wanted to) would be by having someone talk with you and record it.. They start by throwing ideas out there and you jump in when appropriate. Pull out the good moments and throw away the rest. They either become soundbites, a video, or simply transcribed into a blog post.

  2. Anita Anita

    Michael, I enjoy your writing voice. I DO like to write and you’ve got me thinking about the types of writing I limit myself to and why that would be. I think you put a fine point on it when your head voice echoed mine with, “who will care”. Thanks for the reminder that when we “selfishly” (my word, not yours) pursue, no…engage and put energy in to the practices that fulfill us, we grow and connect in unexpected ways. I proved this to myself tenfold when I worked with a personal coach several years ago. Being mindful and intentional, routine days proffered profound connections with seemingly random people. So to both of us I say, be careful of the word Accomplish in our daily vocabulary, perhaps choosing Exercise instead. And when the first morning head voice challenges with tasks, I want to practice responding with, “YES AND, today I’m also going to deepen connections with my passion and compassion.

    • Thanks Anita! Sorry I missed this comment earlier. I love what you wrote. Something changed for me when I found the angle in my writing to where I was compelled to do it each day, rather than it being another task I had to force myself to do. When I’m not feeling it, I don’t write. But, I’ve noticed I’m much more inspired in general – as if this practice has opened something up … I’ll hear ideas from the mouths of other people like never before. I’m more “on the beam”.

  3. Kathy L. Kathy L.

    Hi Mike,
    I almost deleted your email because your name wasn’t familiar to me but I am so glad I stopped myself and read your blog instead. Thank you for sharing your gift of writing . It was a pleasure reading this very well-written, and thought provoking article. It’s a welcome change from the stressful news of the day, namely, COVID, politics,climate change, et al. I’ll have to go back and see if I can find others you may have sent (I may have deleted them inadvertently). I wish you & your family many blessings & prosperity..
    Happy writing!
    Kathy L.

    • Thanks Kathy! That’s so kind, I appreciate that feedback so much!!! And I know I’m confusing everyone with the different name. Hope you are holding up ok =)

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