By: Marilyn L. Davis
“To cement a new friendship, especially between foreigners or persons of a different social world, a spark with which both were secretly charged must fly from person to person, and cut across the accidents of place and time.” George Santayana
George Santayana, Spanish poet, philosopher, and Harvard professor, knew much about making and keeping friends and relationships That spark, the shared moment, as well as our everyday experiences, meander through his writing, whether in English or Spanish, an essay or poem. We can all relate to his words.
Granted, not all who see a particular title will cross that metaphorical bridge and read, but many do. And what should they find waiting for them on the other side? Something they want or need.
Unlike the Bridge to Nowhere, a feature of a particular California hike, nowhere is the last place we want to aim for in our writing, let alone take the readers there. We want to arrive at a logical, exciting, educational place and feel positive, entertained, or enthused. So, how can we write in ways that span the distance between our thoughts, feelings, and opinions, and the readers?
There are some effective ways that we construct our bridge while writing.
Invite the Readers to Meet You Half-way
When I write, I don’t consciously think about my readers, but they seem to hover in the recesses of my mind. I’m not sure if my muse is a potential reader, but, often, I’ll back up and think, “Will this resonate with the readers”? If not, then I know I’m not invitational.
Inviting Writing is my term for giving the reader enough words that make them want to continue reading. It’s an invitation from me to learn along, take a break, ponder, or spend some time wondering. When it sounds inviting, I’m sure they’ll stay until the end.
So, how can you encourage a reader to follow the post until your last killer sentence?
Make the Readers Comfortable
Have you ever gone to a party and not felt comfortable? We all have, and frankly, I’ll leave rather than be uncomfortable. One thing that makes readers uncomfortable is when the writer lectures them.
I’m not talking about an informative post. It’s the kind of post that when I read it, the writer acts as if I don’t have a brain cell in my head. Nope, I’ll leave.
There is a way to educate without being preachy, pedantic or sounding like this year’s online-writing-guru.
Make The Readers Think
However, I do think we should challenge our readers. When I’m writing about addiction and recovery, I do have to use imagery or life examples that make people cry, get angry, or feel ashamed of their similar behaviors. It’s how it’s written that lets my readers know I’m also referencing my actions in my addiction, so no lecturing from the lofty place.
When I write from experience, my readers are comfortable sharing their difficulties, feel secure in responding, and soon, we have a relationship via the comments.
Encourage the Readers to Reply
We also have to realize that readers do not always share our opinions, and for the reader who disagrees, you must keep your feelings off your shoulders. I get it; there’s a lot of effort that we each put into writing, revising, editing, and publishing a blog. We work hard, and then, to have someone disagree with our findings? Just realize that you disagree with many things, too. Don’t take it personally, and move on.
Ask the Readers Questions
Conversations involve more than one person, and although our writing is more like a monologue, when we actively engage a reader with questions, we’re more likely to get a response.
It demonstrates your understanding that there are multiple perspectives on any subject and that you are open to hearing more about your topic. When a reader adds to the intent of the post, or gives additional insights, be gracious and thank them for adding value to the post.
Be an Authority, Not a Know-It-All
There’s a fine line between an authority and a know-it-all. An authority has broad-based knowledge about their subjects. A know-it-all is merely arrogant about their knowledge, and some writers come across as condescending and conceited. They write as if they are doing us a favor. Who wants to have a conversation with someone like that? Again, not me.
While you may be an authority on your topic, if a reader poses a problem, another way to answer is to invite other readers to comment. You may have their solution, but again, keeping the dialogue going is facilitated better when there are multiple answers given. I’ve learned another perspective from readers who provide additional answers through comments on my addiction blog.
When You Are Wrong, Admit It
I got a private message from another writer in a Facebook group once who informed me that a link I used was not good. This happens now and then because posts are pulled down for various reasons. However, the entire emphasis of this particular post was updating your obsolete information, and guess what? I missed one. Was I embarrassed? Yes. But I was also grateful that she didn’t point out the oversight in a comment for all to read. So, I graciously thanked her and fixed it quickly.
After I responded to her, she told me that she was initially hesitant to point out my mistake as she’s a new writer and thought I might be offended. Again, I told her that it was I who was wrong when I didn’t check my update and that she was correct to point out the problem, and how appreciative I was that it wasn’t all over the group’s discussion.
Read the Comments
I know that you’re thinking that this one goes without saying, but I’ve written comments on other people’s posts, and the response clearly indicated that the writer didn’t read my comment.
In one, I asked a question to get further clarification, and the responding comment from the writer was, “Thank you for the kind words.”
No greeting. No personalization. Nothing but that comment. I haven’t been back. I looked up the information myself. Then I found another writer who specializes in treatment for families in crisis stemming from addiction. They responded quickly to my questions, plus, they spelled my name correctly. I’ll visit that writer again.
Connect with the Repeat Readers
All of us would like loyal fans and followers, and when we get them, we should take the time to let them know that we appreciate them stopping by again. Whether they’re “liking” our posts, commenting, or subscribing, they encourage us to write in our unique ways.
I’ve done this and found out that a long-time reader was going through a divorce and thinking that no one cared about him. That small gesture on my part helped him see that people did think about him.
Number 10? Now It’s Your Turn
How do you process comments? How do you cement relationships with your readers? I just know you’ve got ideas about building and cementing relationships with readers. I’d love it if you wrote them in a comment, and maybe, we’ll end up with a compilation post in the future of the “Best “X” Number of Ways to Relate to Readers.”
In case you don’t want to co-author a post but want to write one for Two Drops of Ink, it’s easy. Here are the submission guidelines, and look for me to comment.
Two Drops of Ink: The Literary Home for Collaborative Writing