There are two recurring traits I see in new writers that hinder their progress. As soon as they step back and realize they’re doing one or both of these things, they can move forward.
If you’re a new writer, the first reason you are failing is:
You’re being selfish.
You only write for yourself. If you’re just starting out, this is actually okay — it can take a long time to find your voice and get comfortable with the process. And you need to genuinely enjoy writing posts every week before you can make any real progress with your site. But eventually, you have to start writing for your audience.
“But I don’t HAVE an audience. No one reads what I write.”
Exactly. And why should they? Your content is only interesting to you. No one will care about anything you say unless you can make it fun/educational/inspirational for them. There have been several instances where I’ve written a long post, read over it a few times and thought, “No one is going to care about this.” So I just delete it. If there’s no obvious value to my audience in a draft post, it won’t get published.
When I first started Hoehn’s Musings, I wrote for myself. But as soon as I got in the groove, I started writing for Seth Godin’s audience. I tried to imagine that my site was doling out marketing advice to hundreds of companies. They weren’t actually reading my stuff, of course, but I pretended they were. And did I try to write exactly like Seth does? No, but that leads me to the second reason you’ll fail:
You’re clearly copying another writer’s style.
It is painful when I see this happen, especially when the writer is imitating this guy. He has a stranglehold on that particular style right now — it’s too unique and recognizable, so just don’t even try it. No matter how good your stuff is, it’s very likely that you’ll come across as a poseur and be quickly dismissed. A lot of people copy this guy, as well. I have seen one too many blogs where the writers are trying to be Ryan. The problem is: they aren’t Ryan. If you walk like a duck and quack like a duck, it does NOT make you a duck — it makes you pretentious. You have to be yourself, whoever that is.
Think of it this way: there is a special section reserved in the reader’s mind for any popular writer with a unique voice. You do not have access to that section; that writer owns it. You can have similar content, but you can’t have their voice (and vice versa).
Again, if you’re just starting out, it’s okay to subtly imitate other writers. Just don’t try to be them, please! Trust me — it won’t work and you’ll be miserable the more you try to become somebody you’re not. Look at any celebrity gossip site. They are all spawns of Perez Hilton or The Superficial. None of them are unique anymore, so none of them are truly remarkable. The category is homogeneous and boring. If you’re just copying others, you’ll never be anything special.
Find an AUTHENTIC voice that you enjoy writing in, see how your audience responds, and keep tweaking your content until you get the results you’re looking for.