Whatever you write, you’ll typically get a range of reactions. Some readers will like what you write, some won’t, and some will be somewhere in between.
Many writers who get negative reactions often take it a sign that they’re not good writers, or that their writing style is ‘broken’ and that they need to fix it. They try something different and change things up.
Unfortunately, if you change your writing, there’s a consequence. One segment of your audience now starts to like what you write, and another segment starts to dislike it. You’re back to square one, having to change again.
It creates a never-ending spiral of trying to please everybody – which is an impossible goal.
I’d like to suggest a different way of looking at reader reactions and dealing with them effectively: polarizing readers through your writing.
In order to understand the approach, you first need to know a few things:
The Key is Ardent Fans, Not Readers
It’s not enough to have readers who kind of like your writing and who sort of want to read it every now and again. These types of readers will abandon your writing the minute something new or different comes along.
It’s also very easy for these people to just get busy and then decide reading your writing is a waste of their time. They’ll stop reading completely, they’ll soon stop following your work, and soon they’ll forget about you altogether.
That’s why you need ardent fans, not readers.
Ardent fans are people who absolutely love your writing and are willing to make an effort to access it. They read everything you write religiously, they comment on your posts, they share your content, they apply your advice and they’re ready to promote, support or buy the products or services you offer.
Ardent fans are worth a lot to you. But keep this in mind:
Creating Ardent Fans also Creates Ardent Haters
What ardent fans love is exactly what other readers despise in your writing. In others words, your writing style polarizes readers.
Your writing style pushes reactions towards one of the two extremes of the emotional spectrum. People either love how you write, or they hate it. (Only a few readers muddle somewhere in the middle.)
This is just a reality, and there’s no point in fighting the polarizing effect. In fact, it’s to your advantage.
For example, I tend to use curse words in my writing every now and then. I don’t deliberately curse just because I can, but I find that sometimes a good curse word expresses my attitude authentically and gets my point across.
So I curse. It’s part of my writing style. And the result?
Curse words polarize my readers. Some readers perceive my points as stronger and my style as more genuine, which makes them like my writing significantly more. Other readers find the cursing offensive and disrespectful, which turns them away.
I accept this. I know that in order to get some people to appreciate my writing more, I have to embrace having other people reject it.
There once was a time when getting an email from an angry reader used to make me very insecure about the way I write. I’d be frantic to change it and please that person.
But that time is long gone. Now I see that the people who don’t like me using curse words as collateral damage. I don’t try to change my writing style in order to please them. I keep cursing, because it’s what my ardent fans love about my writing.
And that’s what I really care about: those ardent fans.
You Can’t Please Everybody – And You Shouldn’t
My example was about the way I occasionally curse in my writing. You might have another style of writing that doesn’t involve cursing – but no matter what style you use, playing it up creates a polarizing effect. And that polarizing effect creates ardent fans.
Don’t be afraid of having some people dislike your writing. You may get negative comments. You may get nasty emails.
But on the flip side, you’ll have a very loyal following of people who love the way you write, and you can capitalize on that in many ways.
Of course, being aware of polarization and why it works is one thing. Putting it into practice is another.
In practice, it’s frequently difficult for some writers to accept that some people don’t like what they write, or how they write it. And it does take an amount of personal work to train yourself to be comfortable with that negative feedback.
The most important factor to embracing negative feedback is to realize – and embrace the fact – that you can’t please everybody.
And that you shouldn’t. You should work instead to please ardent fans who appreciate your writing and love your particular style.
If you have trouble feeling comfortable knowing some readers dislike your writing, your mind probably believes (at some subconscious level) that you can find a writing style that makes every person who stumbles upon your content love it.
But that’s only an illusion. And a very dangerous one that you need to let go of.
Real fans always come with a bunch of haters.
The only way to even come close to pleasing everyone is to have a very bland and generic writing style that won’t upset anybody. But guess what? A bland style won’t fascinate anyone either.
Practical Action Steps You Can Put to Good Use
Get your mind used to thinking about polarizing your readers in a constructive way. Learn to care less about what people think of your work, and you’ll feel more freedom to develop your own unique writing style.
Reflect on the unique features that you want to build into your writing style. Then think about them from a perspective of polarizing readers, and embrace the consequences of adding these features in your writing style.
There can only be two: haters and ardent fans. Which would you prefer more of?
With this awareness in mind, consciously practice writing in a style that you feel reflects more of who you are. Remember this will attract more ardent fans.
And when a negative reaction occurs, smile. It’s proof that you’re polarizing your readers and building an audience of people who love what you write. You can take solace in the fact that you aren’t pleasing everyone, by purpose and design, and that you never had to please everyone in the first place.