Bear with me on this one, because a few ideas are coming together from some very disparate sources to form this post.
First, the other day my mom decided to send my most recent short story to my grandmother for her to read. Do not ask my why she did this. My grandma reads the paper, mostly the obituary section to see if she knows anyone who died, and that’s about it. My mother sent her a story about a dystopian future scenario involving antibiotic resistant STDs and the exploitation of poor people that would be quite illegal at the moment.
So, my grandma read the story and then called me to tell me she’d read my “little story” and followed that up with, “So, is that something that happens somewhere?”
“No, Grandma. No it is most definitely not.”
(My grandma is clearly not my target market…the whole concept of fiction and made up stories seems to escape her.)
Second, I’ve been having some conversations about on-line dating recently and the absolute piece of crap approach that certain men on those sites choose to take. Essentially, they’re playing the numbers game. They write either something simplistic and stupid like, “Hey hottie!” and send it to every new member of a site, or they write a generic paragraph about their interests and what they’re looking for and then they paste that into an e-mail and send it to every woman who looks reasonably interesting.
A useful approach if your goal is to engage in flirtation or other things with any living human being of the opposite sex who is desperate enough to respond. Not so effective if you actually want to find someone with similar interests and goals who you could form a lasting relationship with.
The third piece of the puzzle (and please forgive me for drawing this blog into this post) is from a post by Seth Godin titled Macro trends don’t matter so much. Two quotes:
“When you pay attention to the big trends, you’re playing a numbers game and treating the market as an amorphous mass of interchangeable parts. But that’s not what your market is.”
(I added the bold to your. The original had it in italics surrounded by plain text, but when I quoted it it just didn’t stand out enough.)
“Micro trends matter more than macro ones, but most of all, people matter. Individual human beings with names and wants and interests.”
So, putting this all together, what do I have?
In order to be successful at what you’re doing, whatever that may be, you have to first know what you’re trying to do.
Who is your target market?
If you’re on-line dating, why are you doing it? To meet a breathing body to have dinner with? To have sex with? To marry and procreate with?
Depending on the answer to that question, how you approach the whole thing will vary. What you say in your profile, how you respond to messages, what messages you send. All of it is driven by what you’re actually hoping to accomplish. (Or should be.)
If you really, really want to meet someone for reals, then send them a real message. Because if that person is the one of interest to you, then your target market is that one person and you need to sell them on you. All those other people who will respond to your wooden, canned approach aren’t your target, so it doesn’t matter if you get fifty responses if they’re all from the wrong type of person.
Think how luxury brands market themselves as opposed to say McDonald’s. When was the last time you saw a banner ad or TV commercial for Bulgari? When was the last time they ran a free anything campaign?
Same with writing. Do you want commercial success? Critical success? To write beautifully? To write simply? To explore ideas? To explore people? Who do you want to connect with as a writer? Do you want to connect with anyone? Maybe you just want to write to get the crazy little thoughts out of your head and on paper.
The answers to those questions should drive the way you approach your writing–which ideas you pursue, where you submit your work, the type of compensation you demand for your work. What do you actually want from this? Now how do you get it?
I think that also may be why newer writers struggle a bit. They’re not really sure of the answers to those questions. Just like a teenager starting to date might date ALL sorts, a newbie writer could be all over the board with style and genre and everything else. And sometimes you have to go “there” to know that’s not really where you want to be.
(And hopefully you do so in such a way that you can change direction without any harm. By all means, date the future career criminal, just don’t drive the getaway car.)
So, I think I pulled that together. At least in my head I did…