People Type the Darndest Things

I got to thinking last night about what’s next.

What subject I might want to write my next article about, the plot of my next short story, the topic of my next blog post.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

I’m not just talking here about blogging, but writing in the whole range of genres and formats: fiction, non-fiction, novel, short story, article, memoir, how-to, novella, poetry. Literary, mystery, adventure, humor.

Ever wonder why writers write what they do?

That’s easy.

They write for as many reasons as people choose to read their work.

While that answer may be simple, the reasoning behind it is not.

Writing instructors will tell you that all writing should do at least one thing on a relatively short list: inform, entertain, inspire, educate, support, energize, emote, soothe. Combinations of the aforementioned are even better.

At the same time, you’re supposed to find what’s referred to as your ‘natural voice’. It’s a bit like your speaking voice: the manner in which you actually interact with people, how you relate a story to a close friend or family member, whether and when you share confidences, the way you tend to find humor in situations (or not).

Fair enough. Some of the worst writing out there is when someone is trying to force it. We’ve all read it; we can recognize it a mile away. And we know when someone’s found their natural voice, because they can make us laugh or cry or consider another viewpoint. Even on subjects that may not interest us.

But even that’s not sufficient.

Because while you’re at it, you’ve got to get ‘into the zone’. The best writing comes seemingly without effort, when you aren’t even conscious of your mind creating the next word, sentence, thought.

It can be difficult to get to this stage, and harder still to slip into it on a regular basis. But when you do, you know it. The words flow freely from your pen (or fingertips to keyboard, in my case), and they work. You may not even realize why, they just do.

Finally, and this can be the most difficult part, you have to decide what to write about. The topics can be serious or silly, fascinating or mundane.

When I first started this blog, it was with great trepidation. Of course I was concerned that my writing wouldn’t interest anyone. That it would be flat or boring or tedious.

Or worse still, that it would be perceived as self-indulgent drivel.

Let’s face it. All writers worry that their writing isn’t good enough.

I still have those same concerns. I don’t think they ever go away, even for the best of writers.

But I’ve learned along the way not to worry about them. Because if you do, you’ll start writing solely for your audience and not for yourself.

Lest you think that sounds incredibly self-centered (and yes, I know it does), let me explain.

When I created this blog I had in mind a general sense of what I wanted to write about. You only have to look at the title and tagline at the top of the page to know that it would focus on life overseas and all that might entail.

I knew I wanted to explore cultural differences, because, well, they’re a large part of what makes living abroad unusual (compared to my previous life). I wanted it to be funny, because I tend to find humor in everyday occurrences. Plus I like to laugh.

But I also can be thoughtful (in both senses of the word), so I knew I’d try to be a bit helpful while also sharing my thoughts and – dare I say – feelings on various topics.

I knew that it wouldn’t be a travel blog (although I occasionally write about traveling), a how-to/expat info blog (despite sometimes offering posts in these realms) or a writing blog (even though I sometimes write about writing because, well, I’m a writer).

In the end, it was going to be about whatever struck my fancy. What I felt the need to write about.

The readership could rise and fall (thankfully it’s rising, slowly but steadily), people could come and go. Some posts resonate more than others as evidenced by the feedback I receive (website hits, comments, Tweets, Facebook likes, sharing, emails); others fall flat, or slip through the cracks.

My site statistics tell me that evidently some people pop in for a few posts and then move on while others hunker down for the long haul, and for that I’m grateful.

And it’s okay, because that’s how it’s supposed to be. Just as we don’t honestly choose to become friends with every single person we encounter, we can’t follow every single website we come across.

We’re all busy, and our time to read is limited. I choose the sites I tend to follow (on a wide range of topics) precisely because the writing speaks to me; I feel a connection with the writers, even if I don’t ‘know’ them. You do the same.

Because when you write only with your audience in mind, you’ll get yourself caught up in continually trying to please someone else. If you’re thinking only about what they want to read, rather than what you’re moved to write, you may find yourself trying to conform to expectations. Then the writing starts to sound forced.

And we all know that can’t end well.

So here I was, giving all this thought into what I wanted to write about next while keeping in mind what you might want to read. I decided to take a look at the analytics that show what people visiting my website typed into Google or some other search engine to arrive here.

And let me tell you, any concern on my part that I wasn’t focused enough or that I wrote too broadly has now vanished.

You people are all over the map!

Just take a look at a smattering of the search phrases that brought you here (culled from the past month):

tulip flowers Netherlands

american expat netherlands

what do you do to become an expat

want to become an expat

moving abroad broke up + regret   [Hoping they regret breaking up rather than moving abroad, but you never know.]

daughter love song lyrics   [I do write a lot about Daughter, and I do love her but haven’t ever written a love song. Or lyrics. But I find it incredibly sweet that someone searched for this.]

adhd expats

naked Scheveningen and nude scheveningen   [If you’d read my post Sun, Sea, Sand, Voluptuous Curves and Dangly Bits you’d know that I don’t have a clue which are the nude beaches and which aren’t.]

sometimes we get caught up in ourselves   [Ouch. Point taken.]

being an expat how hard is it to move back   [Guess they’re covering their options.]

leaving expat life

Dutch foods and do netherlands love brussels sprouts   [I get these hits because of my post The Baffling Dutch Diet].

bicycles Holland outdoors

teen bucket list and things to tick off your bucket list when young  [These types of queries land here because of my Alice Pyne posts; if interested, you can find them under the category ‘Doing What I Can to Help’.]

expats moving abroad

dogs in the Netherlands

moving to the Netherlands

expat trailing spouse

christmas tree lights in the netherlands   [This hit was drawn by my two posts on Christmas preparation here in Nederland.]

emotional resilience   [If you’re a regular than you’ve got to know that this made me very happy!]

be with nature coexistence synergy   [Why do I get the sense that the person typing this search was disappointed when they found my site?]

blog post ideas     [Yeah, you and me both.]

junior year to do list   [I certainly make (and write about) to do lists, and I’ve written about Son preparing to head off to university, but this searcher surely didn’t find a good, all-inclusive action list here. Sorry.]

pondering woman sad   [??]

albert heijn expat   [Is this a particular type of expat or just someone checking to see whether expats are welcome in Albert Heijn grocery stores?]

porn   [Before you think I’m a total pervert, let me say that I end up on such searches because of this post Calm Amid the Porn Storm. And yes, I realize that in typing this I’m probably going to come up on search lists more often. Sigh.]

porn laj and porno laj   [LAJ are my initials, so they show up as the author of each post; I’m assuming this was typed in by someone who remembered I’d written the aforementioned post and wanted to find it quickly.]

porn paragraph

calm porn

who can tell that I’m on a porn site   [Well, I can tell you’re looking; I just don’t know who you are.]

and my absolute favorites,

porn laj 15 and porn laj 29

Exactly how many porn posts do you think I’ve written?? And seriously, what the heck do the 15 and the 29 stand for??

You people are a little bit wacky.

Just like me. Thank you.


Image credit: dave morgueFile.com


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