I was reading an article someone wrote for one of my projects. I found myself increasingly frustrated as I read through it. My brain kept checking out and I was seriously losing interest. The thing that made this so frustrating was that I had to read it. It’s my job. But if I’d been a casual reader I would have clicked off that article in a couple seconds.
What made this so bad? The writing style was good. No typos or grammar issues. No, it wasn’t any of that.
The problem was, I didn’t understand half the references he was making. He kept making subtle references to TED Talks, books, or blogs he read. He brought them up assuming I’d read or watched them. He wrote it like this.
Pablo Picasso said in his recent blog, “The torch passes and we’re all weary.” And I just think that so aptly sums it up. It’s just like the third principle of phonics.”
He wrote this article assuming things. He assumed every reader was a part of the same tribe to which he belonged. He assumed his readers each had similar life experiences and followed the same blogs and books. And sure, there were probably some readers who would get his references. There were some people who’d read along and whose excitement would grow with each reference.
But I’m willing to guess that would be about two or three readers. The majority of people would check out and click off – like I wished I could.
So here’s the deal. How many people do you want to create for? One or two? Do like this guy.
But if you want to create something meaningful that will impact many, you can’t assume these things. You have to show people what you’ve seen. You have to bring them through your life experiences. You have to initiate people first, then you can take them where you want to take them.
It’s not a matter of watering down your message for the lowest common denominator. It’s about caring enough for your work and for the people that will consume your work that you’re willing to take a little extra effort to make it easy for them to follow.