My Answers to Seth Godin’s Simple Questions for Writers

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Seth Godin’s blog post today was titled “Simple Questions for Writers“, and I have reproduced it below.


1. What is it for?

If this piece of writing works, what will change? What action will be taken?

The more specific you are in your intent, the more frightening it is to do the writing (because you might fail). And, magically, the more specific you are in your intent, the more likely it is to succeed.

2. Who are you?

Writing comes from someone. Are you writing as scientist, reporting the facts? Are you an angry op-ed writer, seeking political action? Or are you perhaps the voice of an institution, putting up an official warning sign in an official place?

3. Who is it for?

It’s almost impossible for a piece of writing to change someone. It’s definitely impossible for it to change everyone. So… who is this designed to reach? What do they believe? Do they trust you? Are they inclined to take action?

4. Will it spread?

After the person you seek to reach reads this, will she share it? Shared action is amplified action.

Your resume is written. So is your Facebook update, your garage sale ad and the memo to your employees.

Writing can make a difference. Write to make a difference.


After reading Seth’s post, I realized I have a serious problem – I don’t have any good answers for any of his questions. Perhaps that’s one of the main reasons why I average only about 50 views per day to my blog, and I have a grand total of seven subscribers (most of whom have a last name of Borden).

Here are my answers to Seth’s questions:

1. What is it for?

I wanted to write a daily blog to see if I was up to the challenge. The original goal was 31 days, now I am up to day 285. I am confident that I will continue to find something to write about every day, but the blog has no real focus. I wanted to use the blog as a way to express my thoughts and views on a wide variety of issues, and while I have done so on occasion, there are other days where I am just sharing my favorite YouTube video or TV commercial. I think I’ve gotten a bit more willing to write about things that may be a bit more controversial, and I hope to do more of that in the future. But as Seth notes, doing so is somewhat frightening. There’s not doubt that I need to put a good deal more thought into what my blog is for.

2. Who are you?

Here’s my Twitter profile:

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, social media.

That profile doesn’t really answer the question though. I’m not sure I can combine all the various parts of my profile and come up with a single unified voice that represents who I am. Once again, something I need to act on.

3. Who is it for?

In an ideal world, my writing would be for everyone, but I realize that is not a useful goal to have. At the other end of the spectrum is the response “I’m just writing for myself,” a point that Seth actually makes in some of his blog posts. Seth tells us we shouldn’t worry about whether someone has read our blog or not, we should write for ourselves. But I don’t fully agree with that viewpoint either. There are things I’d like to see changed, and so I guess you could say some of my writing is geared towards policymakers as well as those directly impacted by my suggested changes. Some issues I feel strongly about include better wealth distribution, smoking cessation, gun control/elimination, world-class K-12 public education, more conscious living/eating, health/fitness/obesity, world hunger, and the elimination of the death penalty, to name a few.

I realize that the list above is fairly broad in scope, and that it would be more effective if I could narrow the list down or find ways to combine some of the issues. Until I do so, it’s hard to have a target audience for each of my posts. One more thing to work on…

4. Will it spread?

Not at the rate I’ve been going. I think I need a combination of more compelling writing and a more effective way of getting people to read and spread my blog.

I have to realize it’s going to take longer than nine months to become the next Seth Godin or Fred Wilson. But I think by studying the habits and methods of such bloggers, I certainly hope that a year from now I will have more than seven subscribers to my blog.

So as you can see, I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me. The good thing is that I do enjoy my daily writing sessions, and I think I’ve been able to turn it into a habit. That should make it easier to focus on what I need to do, so that next time I answer Seth’s simple questions, I will be able to give simple, straightforward answers.

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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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