A ministry recently sent me an e-mail. The subject line read: "Your story is important." It was enough to hook me to at least open the email to find out what they wanted to communicate. I double-clicked it. But as I read, I was immediately disappointed. The introduction sentence said:
"Does anyone want to hear me share?"
Well, no actually I don't. Why would I? You've given me no incentive. And what does that have to do with the subject line "your story is important." What a disappointing disconnect. The next sentence of their e-mail was at least reflective of the original subject line. It read:
"You are in demand! People want to hear from real people and how they overcame real problems and deal with real life situations."
Ok, well we are back on target with the message from the subject line I guess. So I continued to read. This is what followed:
"Click here to read a short update on what we have been doing and where we have been going."
So there it was. This wasn't about my story, or anything they could share that would apply to my life. This was all about them. That email message that was sent from the ministry was extremely convoluted. They wanted to express that my story was important, but in actuality it had nothing to do with me, but everything to do with them. They simply wanted to share their story.
As I work with authors and review manuscripts, this is an area that I often see in writing. We make the story about us and not about the reader. Unless you are already famous, guess what? The reader doesn't really care about you. I know that sounds harsh, but honestly, what they are looking for when they invest time to read, is something that hits home for their life. Something that will make them laugh, provides practical insight, imparts wisdom or gives some simple instruction of "how-to" in an area of life where they struggle.
As a writer, we have to make sure that our writing connects with the reader and touches their lives and their story. That's why memoirs, except of the already rich and famous, often don't sell well. You may have a GREAT story, but unless you can find a way to make it applicable to the reader, it's still just your story. Devotionals can be the same or a self-help book. It needs to be written so that it connects with the reader. It can't just emphasize the writer's story and where we have walked. We have to connect the dots and make it applicable to the reader. The key is to connect.
Writing is about stories. They are powerful. Life is about stories. Everyone has a story. It's when you can find a way to make your story and writing connect with the reader's story that you have found a place of impact and ministry. Connect.