How to Write With Passion and Captivate More Readers
Do you need to write what you know?
Write what you are passionate about
“Write what you know” was the mantra that rolled around in my head over and over in the early days of my writing career. A lot of writers hear this and argue about it because it can really stunt creative writing, but it can also be a good starting point.
For me, it worked. I wrote about my faith, teaching, swimming, kids, parenting, and health. Not only do I know a fair amount about these topics, they are also ones I’m passionate about. I’ve spent large chunks of my life studying, working with, and researching them.
When I wrote about these topics, editors accepted basically everything I threw at them. They saw my passion and so will your readers when you write about what you know and love.
I think it’s a very good rule and have always obeyed it. I write about imaginary countries, alien societies on other planets, dragons, wizards, the Napa Valley in 22002. I know these things. — Ursula K. Le Guin | Science-fiction Author
Even the most dull topics can become fascinating when written by someone who is passionate. I never thought I would find SEO interesting but now I follow a blogger, Mike Pearson, who sends me weekly emails about it. As Mike says himself on his About page, he is:
…obsessed with teaching bloggers how to grow their audience, traffic, and income with SEO. — Mike Pearson | Stupid Simple SEO
I read every single email of his because you simply can’t help but catch his passion.
Writing what you know can mean writing about a topic, like is was for me originally, but that doesn’t mean you are limited to that. (Don’t throw out your notebooks full of imaginary worlds and made-up characters!) Writing about what you know can also mean tapping into a feeling you’ve experienced.
I think what’s behind “write what you know” is emotion. Like, have you known happiness? Have you ever been truly sad? Have you ever longed for something? And that’s the point…” — Nathan Englander | Author
Get passionate about what you are writing about
If you’re trying to make a living from your writing, like I do, then it can be useful financially to branch out of your field of expertise and write about a range of topics.
Often you will end up writing about things you know nothing about. I write for a number of business clients (business being a topic which I knew nothing about). Initially I was dreading this type of work. I worried, firstly, that I wouldn’t have a clue what to write about and, secondly, that it would bore me to death. Surprisingly, it’s actually ended up being some of my favourite work. And this is why — I got passionate about it. I asked questions, researched their companies and got excited about the business courses they offer.
When you persevere with a writing job that feels out of your expertise, try approaching it with open-ness and curiosity and you might find yourself getting passionate about it too!
Passion and perseverance, it turns out, matter more than talent or intelligence when it comes to being successful. — Linda Kaplan Thaler | Advertiser, Author
Be passionate about learning
Learning is my number one passion. I’m always hunting out knowledge — enrolling in open university courses, learning a language, or going to a live talk. If you’re a writer, cultivating a love of learning will feed and boost your work in innumerable ways. If you can learn, you can write about anything.
We have the internet, the whole world really is available to us and anything we want to know.
So for a young author who says “I don’t know what to write about,” I’d say, what have you always wanted to know about? Go learn about it — if you want to know about it, probably someone else wants to know about it, and let your learning process be the catalyst for you to take other people on your learning process, through your novel.
— Dan Brown | Author
Don’t be afraid to let people see the real you
When you write with passion about the things you enjoy, the worlds you create, the people you love, the ones that break your heart, and the ones that mend it, you make yourself vulnerable. But we all know now (thanks to Brene Brown) that vulnerability is good, right!
Still it’s scary to be vulnerable. Fear stops us being real in our writing. The fear of rejection is much more powerful when we are actually writing about things we care about.
If you write an article about moon rocks and no-one likes it, so what? (Okay, maybe moon rocks are your passion, but you know what I mean). But if we write from our hearts the risk increases.
When I wrote a personal story called The Quiche You Didn’t Make Me I spent days considering whether I should publish. It felt too raw. The story expressed the pain and anger I was feeling about losing friends after my divorce and I knew people might judge it. But I also hoped they would relate. They did.
When you are vulnerable, and write about what really matters to you, people notice. They are impacted. They relate because there are others out there feeling just as passionate about that topic as you are.
Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life as well. — Stephen King | Author
So, next time you sit down at your laptop, whether you write what you know or learn what you don’t — do it fully, vulnerably, and with passion.
Kelly Eden is a creative nonfiction writer and mentor, published in Mamamia Australia, Apple News Spotlight, Zoosk and more. Check out her Personal Essay course and get your stories published too.
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