I started blogging without any clue about my audience. I just figured that I was sharing brilliant ideas that everyone would be falling over themselves to read.
Not so much.
There’s a little rule in book publishing that writing to everyone means you’re writing to no one. There’s a lot of truth there. I also experienced this during my first few years of blogging.
I was just writing for Christians. Or, more ideally, “for everyone.”
As I’ve stumbled forward with my writing, my beliefs, and my audience, I’ve been trying to pin down how to write for a specific group of people without necessarily alienating would-be readers outside my “niche.”
I received tremendous clarity on this by reading a little website called McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.
One glorious day I found a post titled “I’m Comic Sans Asshole.” It was sharp, funny, and brilliantly written. I figured anyone writing for this website had to be a top notch writer.
One day Sarah Bessey linked to a post titled “We Are Fundamentalists” by D. L Mayfield. As it turned out, the website that brought me “I’m Comic Sans Asshole” also brought me a writer who masterfully related stories about living in the upside down Kingdom of God, resisting the pull of consumer-driven America with her commitment to downward mobility and love for neighbors.
Here was a Christian living out the radical calling of Jesus and writing about it with tremendous integrity and attention to her craft on a leading website that was by no means Christian—especially that Comic Sans.
D. L. taught me about writing for a niche… and not.
There’s no doubt that progressive evangelicals will find much to love about D. L.’s writing, but her niche doesn’t stop with that group. By sharing from her life, she composes stories that have their own integrity both with her honesty and with the quality of her writing.
Here is someone who could just as comfortably read that post as a testimony on Sunday morning or at a public reading in a coffee shop.
While we can’t always write for everyone, we can write for a niche in such a way that our work has its own integrity and power so that our niche is open and unbounded by insider jargon or divisive language.
I can’t tell you exactly how the Women in Ministry Series came about, but I can assure you that D.L.’s writing helped me see that we needed to move beyond the women in ministry debates and start telling stories that could reach beyond our tired theology and commentaries.
I’ve learned that I need to write for a niche, but I don’t have to limit myself to that niche. I can write with a razor sharp focus without cutting those who disagree with me. That is something I learned from D.L. Mayfield, and I’m sure it’s not the last.
Check out D. L. Mayfield’s blog. Subscribe. Read. Visit often.