Every now and then I write a post and have my friend over at Coffeebear.net review it. His comments most of the time end up being that I missed something or did not include extra information, and then of course there are the “you are totally freaking wrong!” comments, but by and large I have the same conversation with Manzabar, which is that when you write something, you should not write to impress people who know more than you, but to help your intended audience. I am a big believer in that anyone can do anything they want if they put some effort into it. I’m not saying you can conquer the world with your skills, cause definitely not having skills is going to make your results a tad unsuccessful, but the point is not that you are the greatest, but that you did it. Failure is part of life, and just because you failed at what you tried does not mean your efforts were not worthwhile. In my life time I have tried many things, like playing guitar, learning to play basketball at 32, cooking chicken marsala, etc…, and even though I know what I am good at, I still try different things, cause boredom is after all the greatest of all evils. This leads me to the point of this rant, which is that people make things a lot harder than they really are. At the bookstore you will find hundreds of new books on how to do something, but my personal favorites are all the technical books written about how to use Windows, Linux, how to make a web page, how to do everything. Did not all these things already include documentation? If I remember correctly, every piece of software I have used had some documentation, most have manuals, yet when you open these up and take a look at them, they are not in English! They are written in some weird technical jargon that you need to understand before you even can know what the author is trying to say. This is why I love using Macs, and Apple’s documentation while being short and very uninformative for most technical people, it is exactly what regular people can understand. In other words, Apple really does write their documentation for its customers and not for programmers or computer people. This is the reason why some geeks hated Macs and exactly the reason why I think Apple has such dedicated users.
But this does not apply just to computers, but to everything. I hear people all the time talking above their knowledge, trying to impress me and convince me of their argument. Sometimes these people are what I call Pseudo Intellectuals, people who are not really intellectual, but just want to appear like they are. These people bore me to the point that I discard automatically 99% of what they say. However the ones that I truly have no patience for are religious advocates, people who quote The Bible to you as if they actually understood it, and all the time, I keep thinking that religion is like water. It can be clear and good for you, or dirty and contaminated, but regardless it is always free, unless someone bottles it and calls it something else. Religion is something you try to sell people, spirituality is something you choose for yourself.
Today I came upon this blog which talked about how business people talk like idiots, which they certainly do at times, but it is exactly what I was thinking about when it comes to writing:
When we’ve seen authors we work with fall into a trap, it’s almost always out of fear or the inability to imagine another way (the just-do-what-everyone-else-does syndrome). The fear is about imagining what reviewers and readers will do if the author doesn’t cover every possible base and be as technically complete as humanly possible. They imagine that if they try to simplify things, someone will think they aren’t expert enough.
You’re worrying about the wrong people! The people most likely to criticize you for lack of completeness aren’t your target audience anyway. The only people who matter are your intended readers. So it gets back to the other points I’ve been making in the bestseller posts — are you writing for how you’ll be perceived or are you writing to enhance the reader’s life? The answer changes the content.
Get you out of the way, and chances are your readability will go WAY up. (Unless you’re already a good writer. But for the rest of us, like me, this doesn’t come naturally.)
Essentially you have to write not for yourself or your critics, but for your audience. This is what makes your writing effective and successful.