By David White

Knowing what to write can be very easy or enormously difficult. But most often it’s difficult. All authors struggle with self-doubt, fear, and even shame. These are all things that can make you pull back and be timid—and these are all things you have to overcome as a writer.

Write the hard thing.

When you’re writing, you need to be thinking about your audience. As an author, you’re there to serve them above all. What do they need? How do you resonate with them on the deepest possible levels?

Chances are, if you’re reading this blog, you have a story you feel led to share. One that you may think others won’t understand. Today we’re going to talk about how to make sure they do.

Instead of concentrating on the story’s details, focus on the emotion. The gift of your life experience is that it gives you a deep well of emotion to draw on. It might be hard, but lean into it. Be real and vulnerable. You want to create empathy within your audience, and, regardless oflife experiences, they have felt some of those same emotions you have. Maybe you’ve felt them deeper and languished in them longer. Use that. That’s the part of storytelling that’s true.

You see, you may not even need to be telling your own story. For all sorts of reasons, that may simply not be appropriate, either for you, your audience, or maybe even for the medium in which you’re writing. But emotion is always appropriate, in storytelling and in writing in general.

You might not be called to write your own memoir. Maybe your life story is too hard for you to tell or for others to read. Readers rarely need all the intimate details. Sometimes facts get in the way of truth–but there’s nothing more intimate than the emotions.

So, write for your audience. Get to know them. Discover what resonates with them and what their identity is. Once you know that, you know what they need to feel. Use what you’ve felt in your own situation to make a connection with them. Tell the story they need to hear. Create empathy with them and between them and the characters or your subjects.

One last thing. Don’t cheat your audience. It’s too easy to pull back. Sometimes things hurt. Yes, sometimes even a bit too much. Your audience will know and your writing will feel inauthentic if you pull back and don’t put the full measure of emotion into your writing—just as they would in person.Instead of feeling embraced, they’ll feel abandoned.

Embrace your audience.

Write the hard thing.

David J. White

David J. White is the founder and publisher of the WhiteFire Publishing Group, including WhiteFire Publishing, WhiteSpark, and Ashberry Lane. He’s always been a lover of books—reading them, but also, after working in a print shop, producing them. He and his family make their home in the beautiful mountains of West Virginia, where he can frequently be found philosophizing about the power of stories, both in books and on screen, to change the world.