Recently a reader wrote in asking for advice about gaining an audience for their work. This is something that I’ve had some modest success at, but also something that I feel conflicted about; my reply, below, felt worth sharing.
If you want to get attention, tackle a subject that other people want to learn about. This is hard to do, hard to judge, and kind of obvious to point out - but it's critical if you want to reach a large audience. Bin of broken dreams (the piece that, despite being outdated and outwritten by many subsequent years of work, is still this site’s most-trafficked blog post month after month) was successful largely because I was debunking an idea that a lot of people were either invested in or curious about. “Just press print” was a popular concept, and the story I presented in that piece directly countered it. That was lucky, but there are a LOT of other ideas floating around that would warrant a similar approach.
I should caution you, however: If you prove yourself a good communicator - and worse, if you build yourself an audience - then you may find yourself increasingly boxed into marketing either your own or other people’s stuff.
That may be fine; I value communication, and enjoy promoting both my own work and good shit around me. But it’s also limiting. On almost a daily basis, someone writes me to ask for either an introduction or help promoting their thing. But my (apparent) skills in writing, and in building a community around myself, have largely overshadowed any of my more technical or managerial traits.
I started blogging in early 2013, and I started The Prepared late the same year. I would do it all again, but I recommend that you consider what you want your day-to-day work to look like - and remember that fame (however modest) mostly breeds a continued pressure towards fame.