“I wanted to follow up to let you know the impact this article had on me.”
I had a massive smile on my face as I read the email. It came from a reader who had commented on an article a few weeks prior. The article had resonated with her, and she said she was going to follow the advice I had given.
To be honest, when I read her original comment, I was happy but thought it was a nice throwaway line. Just to let me know, she liked my article.
“Thanks for the article. I’m going to try this advice.”
It made me feel good. When I pound away on a laptop at a volume that disturbs my snoring dog, it is in the hope it will entertain and educate the reader. And possibly make me a few dollars.
I replied back to her.
Glad you liked the article. Let me know how you go with this process.
I have written similar replies to many of my comments. But this time, the person actually did follow up and get back to me with an update. She told me the article’s impact on her and what changes she had implemented based on my advice.
My words actually had made a difference to somebody. I was jumping around the room with excitement.
The writer’s oath
Writers have a lot of responsibility on or shoulders. So often, our words are taken as gospel — even if they are not. If other occupations have to take an oath, maybe we should as well.
I solemnly swear on my copy of On Writing Well to only write what is true, what is entertaining, and what will actually benefit the reader. I will not be self-serving. And I promise not to ever write about how much I earn.
So help me, Hemingway.
Writers are always advised to show, don’t tell. The advice is to allow the reader to experience the story through action, words, and feelings rather than through a basic summary and description.
I’d like to add a second part to that piece of advice on the back of the writer’s oath.
Tell your tax advisor what you earn, show your readers what they can learn.
Laptop beats pen beats sword
Some of us write for ourselves. Some of us write for money. A few of us aren’t human and are AI robots typing articles.
No matter which category you fall into, you should remember you need to write for the reader. They are the ones who give us views, comments, claps, likes, tips, and money. So we have an obligation to them.
Our words are powerful — the pen is mightier than the sword, and I figure using a laptop has to be worth about ten pens. Which makes the laptop and the content we produce the equivalent of ten swords.
A lot of us peddle advice. While some of it is good, a lot of it is regurgitated, templated rubbish. When we do that, we let not only ourselves down but our readers down.
Readers may read our work and be tempted to follow our advice. Use your ten swords wisely.
Success brags are dead — and everyone needs to know it
I make money from writing. How much do I earn?
Does it really matter? Would any of you care if I wrote an article outlining my earnings? Sure it would get a load of views from other writers wanting to see how I made money. But it would offer nothing of substance to my readers.
Yet this seems to be the preferred measurement of success for writers. Earning money and then telling others how much they made. It’s been done to death, and it is boring. The IRS might be impressed and want to click and read — the rest of us, not so much.
Do you know what would be a far better article?
I Helped 3 Readers Improve Their Lives By
How 1 Minor Change Helped This Follower
3 Real-Life Outcomes From
Ok, those headlines may suck, but it’s the content that follows that matters. I would read all three of those articles — crappy headline notwithstanding. I won’t read a single article talking about earnings.
The feedback and gratitude we receive from our readers should be our motivation.
Share those stories. Tangible outcomes are more interesting than dollars.
Your readers could be improving your health
Getting a positive comment can help motivation and boosts confidence.
I get a rush of dopamine when someone tells me how much they got out of my article. I don’t get that same rush when I see an extra $100 in my account.
A study confirmed what psychologists had long suspected: that people who experience positive emotions are at a reduced risk of disease. So each one of those comments is actually improving my health.
Developing solid and meaningful connections with other people releases the hormone called oxytocin which makes us feel good.
Articles about money can’t buy you happiness.
Ash’s cliff notes for those who like to skim
- As writers, we have a responsibility. Only write what you genuinely believe.
- Enjoy your successes. Tell your tax advisor. No need to tell us — we really don’t care.
- Write for the reader, even if it is just one reader. Don’t write for views.
- Show don’t tell.
- Good writing will improve your health
The article I referred to at the beginning of this earned less than $20. But I got immense satisfaction from having a meaningful impact on a reader. We exchanged comments back and forth, and the whole time I had a massive smile on my face.
And that is priceless.