Long before I became a writer with a decent Internet following, I was a huge consumer of online reading material. If I found a blogger whose work I enjoyed, I would often binge read their entire site over the course of a few days — even if this entailed going through years and years of writing.
It’s been interesting making the transition myself to being on the other side of things, primarily an online writer. When I was primarily a reader, I never really gave much thought to why the person whose work I was reading was writing things online. They just did. And I was there, silently lurking, enjoying the fruits of their labor.
Now that I’m in the writer chair though, I will get messages and comments on a somewhat frequent basis from people who want to know why I write online. Or occasionally, I’ll get a pointed insinuation that the only reason a person would want to write online is to get loads of attention and therefore I must be some kind of attention-crazed fiend.†
But that’s not what it’s about for me, getting a lot of attention. Attention is a side effect and not a motivator.
Basically, when it comes to what really drives me, it boils down to one thing: I like being helpful.
It’s important to me. I try to be the kind of online writer that was helpful to me — and as a writer, I’m always trying to fill gaps, to provide information I couldn’t easily find when I was silently lurking.
But what does helpful mean, exactly?
Well, there are many ways that online writing — even something as informal as a blog post — can be helpful. Here are a few.
1. Teaching You Something
Some writing teaches you how to do things. This is probably the most straightforward way a writing can be helpful. There’s an abundance of instructional material on the Internet. I’ve even written some myself, since some (but not all) of my writings are how-to articles.
2. Reassuring You That You Know What You’re Doing/Are on the Right Track
Sometimes I’ll read instructional articles that are solidly written and everything but don’t necessarily teach me anything new. No surprises within. They’ll be more of a review of things I already know on the subject or things I’m already trying and/or doing.
When this happens, there’s still value, however. Maybe there’s nothing newsworthy or paradigm-shattering in this particular article, but that doesn’t make that particular article worthless. It can actually be very reassuring to turn to advice and see that it matches up with your current plan and pool of knowledge on the subject.
It helps me to feel like I’m on the right track (invaluable since I’ve been a lifelong self-doubter).
3. Validating Your Experience/Emotions
This one’s been a biggie for me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been suffering with something or had some kind of weird thought and truly believed that I was the only person who had been through that or thought that way.
When I thought I was the only person who felt that way or had struggled in quite a manner, it was easy to feel like my feelings or experiences were wrong somehow. That I was defective.
And then lo and behold, I’d stumble onto an essay online where the author was talking about having experienced the same thing.
Maybe they didn’t have any answers, any quick how-to tips, any advice.
But sometimes just knowing that other people had gone through something similar made me feel a little less crazy.
There’s a lot of value in this as well.
4. Entertaining You
Honest to goodness, there are blogs I’ve read simply because they were really freaking funny. Or unpredictable somehow.
With some sites, I got very invested in the characters in them, the people the blogger wrote about, and just like I was reading a novel or watching a movie, I would read through page after page of someone’s blog to see how things turned out.
In others, a person might write about familiar topics in really funny or interesting ways.
5. Giving You the Words to Explain Something to Someone Else
I’ve definitely had times when I’ve stumbled onto a blog post that says something I’ve believed for years but much better than I had ever put it.
And it was extremely helpful to be able to post a link to my social media with an excerpt from the article as a caption and be able to communicate quickly to my friends something I’d never really had the words for before.
Similarly, I’ve been delighted when lovers would send me a romantic essay (or quotes from one) and tell me that it made them think of me.
One of my favorite parts of writing online is when I post something and people start tagging their loved ones in and PDA-ing on my writing or a meme I’ve made or shared. It is the best feeling. It’s a one-way ticket to Compersion City.
Furthermore, sometimes an online writing will teach me a new word for something that I didn’t even know there was a word for. And that can be a huge help.
6. Publicizing Something Important
As I mentioned in the last post, having articles at my fingertips that explain important issues that I care about well is totally invaluable. It makes it really easy for me to spread the word myself.
Now that I have a fairly big public platform of my own, I also have the opportunity to spread the word about issues that interest me or that I think are important. Sometimes readers find this helpful.
7. Showing You a Perspective You Might Not Have Considered
In these points, I’ve mostly focused on writers that I resonate with. However, I haven’t just gained value from writers that I have a lot in common with. Sometimes, I’ll read someone primarily because our lives are very different and they tend to view things through a different lens. One that I may not have considered.
8. Satisfying Your Morbid Curiosity
Other times I might read the work of someone who is very different than me simply because I’m curious about how other people live. Maybe it doesn’t really hit home in a meaningful way, but I’ll find it fascinating.
What Did I Miss?
But yeah, that’s pretty much why I write online.
I know a lot of you readers also write online, so I’ll put following the questions out to you:
- Why do you write online?
- Does a desire to be helpful factor into it?
- If not, what drives you?
- If so, are there other ways that online can be helpful that I missed in this piece?
Thanks in advance for any further insights.
† I’ve found that attention is a terrible motivation for being an online writer. Especially because what most people are looking for is positive attention. The fact of the matter is that you do get more attention if you write online fairly well and consistently, but it’s not just positive attention. You also get a lot more negative attention.
As I wrote in another recent piece, having a magnetic personality also makes you a hater magnet. More praise doesn’t come without an equal (or sometimes greater) serving of more criticism.
There needs to be more than a desire to captivate people’s attention and/or manipulate other people’s opinion of you driving you to create. Otherwise, writing online would be a very lonely and miserable way to spend one’s time.
My new book is out!
Dealing with Difficult Metamours, the first book devoted solely to metamour relationships, full of strategies to help you get along better with your partners’ other partner(s).