Writing | Self

Don’t Write for Yourself. Do This Instead.

Steal my writing strategy to help you optimize content for audiences.

Sean Kernan
5 min readFeb 21, 2022


Editorial rights purchased via iStock Photos

“Are you a man or a woman?”

“Are you straight, gay, or bisexual?”

“How much money do you make?

My census interview felt like an awkward, overly direct first date. The rapid-fire bluntness of his questions rang of a curious toddler, who stopped short of asking me where babies come from.

We were standing on my front porch yesterday, having this conversation because I’d thrown my census letter away on accident.

And then he asked, “What is your profession?”

I said, “I’m a writer.”

The 70-year-old man lit up, “Oh is that so!”

This paused our interview.

He started telling me about an autobiography he’s always wanted to write, elaborating for a full five minutes on it and all he’d seen in life, including meeting Dr. Martin Luther King.

His excitement is fairly common and, to a degree, flattering. People never responded with that enthusiasm when I said I worked in finance.

So many people harbor a secret fantasy about writing. And like many fantasies, they are too afraid to follow through on it.

The profession is intimidating. I get it.

It used to be much harder to make a living as a writer. The barriers to entry were high and the market seemed held by a select group.

I thought about writing for many years

17 years ago, I emailed one of my favorite authors, Paul S. Kemp, asking the cliché question, “Do you have any tips for an aspiring writer?”

I’d been blown away by one of his books and nervously wondered if I could ever write something half as good.

Kemp took the time to write me back and I never forgot the simple advice he gave me:

  • Find a community and exchange feedback (this was 2004-ish, prior to social media and blogging sites).
  • Persist and have patience. It can take some time to “get the…



Sean Kernan

Always on the hunt for a good story. That guy from Quora. Writing out of Tampa, Florida.