Publishing / Writing / July 25, 2011

Be a Few Things to a Few People

“Be all things to all people”, what a glorious sentiment, what an ideal to which we can aspire, what a meaningful existence. What a load of rubbish.
Well, it’s rubbish for writers. It is a road to meaninglessness and a total lack of identity.  Attempting to be all things for all people as a writer is really being nearly nothing to nearly everybody.
Writing needs focus. It needs an attainable objective, an aim. Writing cannot take on too many subjects at once nor can take on a single subject from too many directions.
Writing needs a tone, a rhythm. This doesn’t need to be a monotone (and in fact it shouldn’t be), but it must be an appropriate tone.
A single work cannot answer every question about a subject or deal with every contingency. Should a writer try you end up with a confused web of thoughts with numerous loose ends or a never-ending manual with sub points for the sub points. If he seeks to answer too many questions he will answer all of them poorly or fail to answer some of them at all.
So when you write do not seek to be all things to all people. Instead seek to be a uniquely valuable contributor on a single thought or small set of thoughts. Do not head down the rabbit trails. Do not be distracted by contingencies. Write with focus, a singular aim.

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