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Do I have to love the subject I’m writing about?

by on 12 Mar, 2015

The question came up in a session I was doing with a group of writers last week.

The answer, of course, is no.

If you are very lucky you will be able to spend a lot of time writing about the things that interest you.

Lots of us aren’t always that lucky. That’s why effective writing is about putting yourself in the place of your reader.

You may not care about the subject, but they do or you wouldn’t be writing about it. So think about:

  • what your reader cares about
  • why your reader cares
  • what your reader wants to know about the subject.

And aim to let some of their enthusiasm inform your writing along the way.

  1. I’ve been very fortunate to write about lots of things I love: photography, motorbikes, old cars. But in some ways it was harder.

    As an editor of a magazine with ‘enthusiast’ writers I was always having to grapple with the writers’ need to make every feature the ‘definitive’ version. The staff always wanted to write the ‘ultimate Ferrari article’ or the ‘Porsche epic’ that made all others redundant. And it was hard to argue against because cover lines describing those types of features tend to sell rather well.

    Maybe I’m drifting off topic now.

    Back to writing about what we love. Some of my most satisfying assignments have been on subjects about which I knew or cared very little. To learn about other people’s worlds is amazing, especially when it involves listening to experts and enthusiasts. But the passion can be infectious, which brings other challenges of perspective.

    This is why it always comes back to the readers. All good writers care about their readers and if you care about them, you also, to some extent, care about the things they care about. This leads to the perfect cycle of understanding their needs and passions, feeding their hunger for knowledge or entertainment and then getting your own writer’s nourishment through increased readership, feedback and discussion.

    It was when I discovered that I was more interested in the magazine/writer/reader relationships than, say, photography (my first specialist staff job was on a photo magazine) that I started to learn how to be an editor. I went on to develop skills that brought me success in markets that I had very little interest in – at first. Financial services turned out to be fascinating. Who knew?

  2. margaret@contentetc permalink

    You make a great point: good wirters can find the interest in any subject!

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