Do You Want More Readers? Write like Yourself7 min read

Who are you, exactly? Are you the name your parents chose for you? The house you were born in? The books you’ve read? The movies you watched as a kid? The people you spend the most time with?

Who’s you? And when is that you the most authentic you? When around other people, or when by yourself? Are you made up of the noise around you or the silence within? Or is it the other way around?

Are you your thoughts? Which ones? The ones you have early in the morning, or the ones that you have late at night?

Are you words and stardust? Are you a bit of magic, too? Or are you simply the physical manifestation of the universe trying to understand itself?

Who do you believe you are? The one staring back whenever you step in front of a mirror?

Are you who you want to be or are you who you think others want you to be?

Who are you, exactly?

I am asking all these questions because they are notoriously difficult to answer with any degree of certainty. The curious paradox is that what follows after the words “I am” defines your thoughts, your beliefs, your words, and your actions.

Oh, and what and how you write.

Write like yourself

Did you ever feel nervous in a certain situation and someone told you to, “just be cool?” Didn’t that make you a bit angry? Yet, in a way, it was precisely what you had to do not to be nervous; it also felt like an insult and the most useless advice ever.

Write like yourself. This is the insult-advice of the writing community. Some people interpret this as write what you love. It’s not.

To write like yourself means to be authentic, honest, to write in the most convenient style possible. It’s so damn hard to do this.

We all write like a bunch of other people, especially the writers we admire the most. But that’s not who we are.

So, how do you write like yourself?

1. Just be cool

Yeah, in order to write like yourself you’ve got to be cool.

You think of all these strange things, all the time. Whether or not your words will matter, whether this book you’re writing will sell, who is the target demographic of your novel… what are people going to say? Oh my, what are they going to think about you when they read this embarrassing story you just wrote?

One way to successfully kill your imagination and creativity is to worry too much about other people. It makes it impossible to enjoy the journey.

Whenever you find yourself being nervous, ask yourself if the thoughts you’re having serve you. And then just be cool.

2. You need to feel “naked”

All great writing comes from a place of vulnerability. You feel like you’re walking down the street naked. Everyone can see the real you; the mask has come off. Your deepest desires, most hidden dreams and aspirations, all that you ever hoped to be, all of that can be found in your words and stories.

Yet what do people do?

The want to establish authority. They want to appear as the expert. The boss at blogging. Somehow, there’s this idea that leaders sit on a golden throne and tell others what to do.

Out of all the soldiers in his army, Alexander the Great had the most battle scars. Think of that.

Vulnerability is the way to go. To own your own ideas, thoughts, and feelings. To own your experiences. To own your tears, for they are as much a part of you as anything else.

We’ll all love you for it.

3. Write to a one reader – your ideal reader

“I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person — a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.”John Steinbeck

I wrote my first novel because a woman I was desperately in love with thought my idea was cool. I wrote the second one for a different person. The third, kind of the same idea.

My best writing was always about one person. A real person. My ideal reader. Someone who wanted to read my words, someone I wanted to get to know me, to get to understand things about me that I could not say out loud.

Imagine you’re talking to a friend. You’re out, having fun. How’d you talk? What’d you say? You’d be funny and sarcastic? Serious? Too serious?

Your reader is your friend. Each and every single one of them. And since you’re addressing your reader as an individual, you should use the personal pronoun “you” as much as possible and also refer to yourself as “I”.

Also, you can use we. “In this day and age, we feel more and more under pressure to be just like everyone else.”

This makes you sound even more like a friend to your reader.

4. Assume responsibility

We all had this great idea at one point or another, yet chose not to write about it, because we knew it would have pissed some people off.

If your best friend is screwing up their life by doing some stupid thing over and over again, would you tell them that? Would you give them a wake up call? Wouldn’t that be your responsibility?

Your readers are your responsibility.

Your thoughts are also your responsibility. Write whatever you want. Tell it as it is, no need to sugar coat it.

5. Don’t write to impress

When I was seventeen, after having won a bunch of National Awards here in Romania, after becoming a bit of a rockstar at my highschool and being allowed to do whatever I wanted, I decided to enter a short-story content with a bunch of my friends.

And I’d be telling them what to write, how to write it, all that stuff. And at one point, one of them argued that they didn’t put me in charge, and asked me why was it that I thought I was better than them. So I wrote a piece. A short fragment. To prove to them how good I really was.

It was a petty thing to do. Yeah, it did impress them, but I don’t think it was such great writing.

And I’d always do that. Trying to write some story in such a way that it would blow minds and stuff. It doesn’t work like that. Not at all.

You should write for a cause, not for applause. Write to express, not to impress.

Your words should mean something to you. Words are so powerful, so, so powerful. They can give a voice to the oppressed, the downtrodden, the rebels without a cause, the ones who’d like to change the world and don’t know how…

Never sell yourself short by writing words that mean nothing to you in order to impress others.

6. Use the most accessible language

“Never use a long word where a short one will do. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out…Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.” – George Orwell

Like I said, it’s like talking to a good friend. You’re feeling comfortable around them, so you can be yourself, which is calm, comfortable, cool. Friendly. Fun. Carefree. A bit weird, fully assuming it. Owning it like a boss. You use the first words that come to you, because you know your friend is not judging you in any way.

If you feel like saying “fuck,” you say it. If not, you don’t. If using certain words is not you, you don’t use them. If talking about a subject is against your core values, you don’t.

You feel at ease with this friend. He has long given you permission to be yourself. He has never tried to change you. That’s why he’s your friend.

Wouldn’t you like your readers to be your friends too?

“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” – Elmore Leonard

Whenever I find myself struggling to write, it’s mostly because I’m trying to write like someone else. I’m not being myself. I’m either trying to impress someone, or using words that I normally wouldn’t, or I’m just afraid to put myself out there.

And doing this takes all the fun out of writing. It begins to feel like a chore. I am the prisoner of some famous writer’s words. I am no longer free to write my stories and posts the way I’d like to.

I have become the prisoner of imaginary expectations, fears that will never materialize.

Writing like yourself is simple. It is you who is turning it into such a terrifying process.

Cristian Mihai

Became Internet famous by the age of 23. Never recovered. I write short author bios all over the web. I’m an acquired taste. Don’t like me? Acquire some taste.

36 thoughts on “Do You Want More Readers? Write like Yourself7 min read

  1. This is great advice. I just recently started blogging and some of my major fears were vulnerability and who to write to. Your words on writing to that one person is exactly what I needed to know. This is so helpful!

  2. My motto is, “WYSIWYG” where my blog is concerned. It’s not possible for me to be anyone else. When I first started writing someone close to me told me they thought it sounded just like me, which is the ultimate compliment.

  3. “You should write for a cause, not for applause. Write to express, not to impress.” LOVE it. It’s called “anxiety of influence,” and so many writers, who also read voraciously, find themselves with their words stuck just shy of their middle knuckle in their fingers because what they want to write has been influenced by the writer(s) they admire most.

    However, some writers, such as Philip Roth, write with such an effortless voice, reading him only inspires. It would be, to my mind, impossible to appropriate his style, unlike, say, David Foster Wallace, who I daresay has been the downfall of many an MFA’s foiled attempts at finding their own voices.

    If I may–there are some people who use words in daily life that others find “verbose.” (Object lesson, right there. 😉 In daily conversation, I use the word obfuscate, for example, all the time. I don’t say it to impress; it is how I speak.

    So. That brings us to writing fiction. Your character’s speech ought to reflect the character you’ve created. For example, my upcoming novel, “Wade,” is about a simple, working-class man living in a small town in Nevada. “Wade” would never, ever use the word “obfuscate.” However, just because his speech is simple, that doesn’t mean I write him as a simple, one-dimensional character. That, in turn, means I might have to use a whole phrase, in “Wade-speak,” to account for a single word he would not use, and this does not necessarily lend itself to word economy. My editor in NYC pointed this out, and I went over Wade’s inner-dialogue, and indeed, it needed to reflect his colloquialisms and word-usage.

    A good writer will edit his or her own work. A good editor will find and hold the writer to “word economy.” And a good writer will listen to his or her experienced editor, but ALSO know enough about why he or she used that particular word or phrase, and use their best judgement in cutting, or keeping something. To do that, the writer must be able to tell the editor why the word or words are germane to the piece. That’s the line we must walk, and it is more a tightrope than line.

    Thank you for the thought-provoking article. Peace–

  4. Great thoughts! It’s so easy to fall into thinking that you need to write what people expect you to write, but I think the most effective and popular posts are those that have some heart and vulnerability. Thanks for this timely piece! 🙂

  5. I struggle with what to write and not what to write for a long time now. I thought people believe the imaginations and lies we write than the honesty being expressed in what we write about….. Thanks a bunch for this😁

  6. Hey! Great post!

    Really find the naked part helpful! It is true and very eye opening! 🙂

    Question I got for you sir – Would you say that blogging successful blogging requires particular talent? Do you think that anyone can become a succesful blogger if they put in the work or do you believe that blogging is so unique that you sorta have to be ‘born’ for it? 🙂

    Thanks for sharing and would be great if you answer! 🙂

    1. Nothing is that unique that you have to be born for it. Talent, as an innate ability to do something, is just a myth, a fairytale we tell ourselves when we try to rationalize why someone can do something we can’t.

      That being said, I believe that anyone can become a great blogger, as long as they put the time and effort into it, learn from their mistakes and the mistakes of others, and are as open minded as possible.

  7. I’m impressed by the way you express yourself and the connections you make. I’m also impressed that you immediately put into practice the things you advise. Practical AND personable. Great job, Cristian.

  8. You certainly give us fodder for thought. Was that sentence too fancy? I’m trying to decide whether to print this out and highlight my most useful and favorite parts. You packed so much in this piece. Thanks.

  9. I feel like #2 is especially true. Raw, visceral experiences are a powerful thing, especially in writing, and you have to be willing to bear your soul a bit. I do that now and then with some of my experiences from war on my blog, and those usually get the most hits.

  10. You asked, “Are you words and stardust? Are you a bit of magic, too?” Yes and yes! And your words send a bit of magic & stardust to my writing. Thank you, Cristian. I always pick up new tips from you. My blogging is better because of you. I am gaining followers at about 3 per day now – after about 10 years of stagnation. Sure glad you’re out there! ♥️👍🏽

  11. I write just as I speak. I’ve gotten many comments from readers telling me that they can hear me as they read. That’s not accidental. My background is in live performance. I write in short bursts with pauses, fragments, and “creative” phrasing. It works for me.

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