Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Making Mistakes Can Leave You Sleeping Alone at Night.

This morning I was reading Your Google+ Audience - Who Are You Writing For? and a thought occurred to me: who am I writing for?

I've written posts that were really successful by my own standards, but when I try to mimic those posts to replicate their success they always fall flat. For a while it bothered me that this would happen as it seemed like I should be able to see similar results. Then I realized what was causing the problem; I was following trends.

It's easy to look at other people who are successful - and even more so when it's your own successes - and delude yourself into the belief that if you just write a post like Grognardia, Playing D&D with Porn Stars, or if you write one more series like If You're Going to Be Evil that you too can have that same level of success. So you write a post that covers the same territory and you post it. Only your page views aren't going up. Now you get all pissed and discouraged and in your darkest mental state you make your second mistake by either disparaging the very things you're emulating or walking away completely. 

Instead of showing your ass or walking away what you needed to do was recognize that the authors you want to emulate have found their own voice which is why they were successful. Finding your own voice isn't easy by any stretch of the imagination. Let's just look at the evolution of my own blog. I started out doing my best imitation of James Maliszewski, working my way through Dragon, White Dwarf, and doing product reviews. Only I wasn't nearly as enjoyable to read as he was because what I was doing wasn't where my heart laid. Eventually I tried to emulate +Zak Smith but I couldn't pull that off either because I'm just too direct.

When I finally started writing and finding my own voice I had a really big success with the If You're Going to Be Evil series. It was shared on twitter, Facebook, and reddit (where it remained in the top ten D&D items for nearly a week). I thought, "Oh! This is what everybody wants to read!" So I chased that series and fucked it all up.


The truth is that you can't chase your audience by emulating your own past triumphs or the successes of other authors. Instead what you have to do is be yourself and break your own ground.You have to write about whatever is interesting to you on that day. Whether it's a short story about a sentient dungeon or you talking about sharing. No matter what you do though, you have to be yourself because there is only one +Zak Smith, only one James Maliszewski, and only one you.


  1. That is a great post, Thank you.
    I try very hard on my blog to write about what on my mind, to the point of sometimes, if I’m not feeling into gaming I don’t post at all, and I know that’s bad for developing a following.
    I admit I get frustrated when my least viewed posts are the ones about my projects, (insert Shards of Thimbral Plug here) but damn it that’s where my head is at, If I wrote anything else It would be contrived.
    It is comforting to know that the keeper of even a much more successful than mine blog like this could have some of the same thoughts I do about view counts and those, “Why did no one read that? It was really good.” Moments.

    1. Shards of Thimbral is some cool stuff. You keep writing it and eventually the audience will come.

      "It is comforting to know that the keeper of even a much more successful than mine blog like this could have some of the same thoughts I do about view counts and those, “Why did no one read that? It was really good.” Moments."

      I don't know about more successful, but we all have moments where we question ourselves. You're really good Mark, time will prove that out.

  2. To thine own self be true, Laertes.

    Or as the Prophet Omega said:

    You've got to remain to bein' yourself...you cannot be nobody else, it ain't no use tryin' bein' no whirlwind an' uh, jumpin' here an' an' playin' checkers with your own life, that ain't gonna work, baby...

    But yeah, use your own voice, that's why people read this instead of whatever you're imitating. We all forget this from time to time.

    1. I must find this prophet Omega.

    2. I'm only familiar with him from from an Adrian Belew song. Not sure if there is an official video but I found this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRKs7o-xMU0&feature=kp

      I believe Omega had some kind of small or pirate radio show.

  3. The very reason I don't post to my blog more often. I don't write to obtain "Followers." I write because the "mood" strikes me and I have something specific to say. Nothing to say? Nothing to post.

    You're on the money, Charles.

    I am unfamiliar with Mark's blog. Got a link?

    1. "Nothing to say? Nothing to post."

      Ha! I like that.

      "I am unfamiliar with Mark's blog. Got a link?"

      Sure. Dust Pan Games is a fun blog. Mark is really smart and he's always got something worth reading (even when he thinks he's just fooling around). Guy's a lot of fun to read!

  4. There was a time when I looked at stats and page views but those days are long over for me. Besides, I just like to blog and have fun. If someone enjoys my blog, fantastic. But if a post I do isn't' for them, that's okay too. But most important to me, is being myself and having fun. Otherwise, why bother?

  5. there is only one +Zak Smith, only one James Maliszewski, and only one you.

    There are three of me. I've counted. I don't like what the other two are doing.

    A writer's post. Like it. Lived it. You can put up a post that you spent a few hours honing and editing into a form of beauty. You sit back, push publish and wait. Only your mother comments about how great it is that you're still playing that little game. Another post you fart out in a few minutes and you get a series of flash mobs dancing to two cello dudes playing AC/DC. I stopped trying to make sense of it long ago.

    My one piece of advice...if you don't have anything good to post...draw a map.

  6. It is not easy to comment your post ... because you already answered yourself! :)

    I think many of those who decide to start with a blog does not have a clear idea of ​​where they want to arrive, but in the end it will be the originality, functionality, or the topics to determine the success or not.

    And then there's always the question: "But my blog is to please myself or to please the others?" I think that there isn't only one direction, but that we should find the right compromise between both routes. That is okay to try to please your readers, but without ever losing sight of your personal pleasure.

    P.S. I hope I was clear in my reflection... it's not easy to "translate" in a foreign language what you could say in your language with much more fluidity and sophistication. ;)


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