“I don’t get it. When I wrote Kitchen Confidential, my busines model was, ‘I Don’t Give a Shit,’ and I’m trying very hard to keep that as my operating business model. I never, ever think, what will they like, what do they expect, what should I do next.”
Now, I adore Bourdain’s writing. I could argue that he did give readers what they wanted: passionate, colorful stories written with fierceness and humor. Who wouldn’t like that?
But he was writing memoir, not “service writing.” That’s mostly what I do. It’s probably mostly what you do too. This type of writing tells readers how to do something, like how to cook, outfit a kitchen, choose produce, entertain, etc.
Ironically, Bourdain wrote cookbooks after this memoir. To be an effective recipe writer, don’t you have to know — as Bourdain put it — what people will like and what they expect?
To be good at service writing, you need to know your readers so you can customize your message. For as much as Bourdain pooh-poohs the notion of writing to readers, I believe he was writing to other cooks in Kitchen Confidential. He knew this audience intimately, because he was part of it. What he didn’t know is that others — people who love food, who love eating in restaurants — would enjoy his story just as much.
As a blogger, of course, you get to write whatever you like. The question is whether to:
- write about whatever interests you
- write what you think your readers will like (ex. three chocolate desserts a week, in the case of David Lebovitz)
- or write posts not about food on a food blog (Michael Ruhlman wrote this post endorsing Barack Obama, for example).
Do you write a mix of all of the above, or do you feel strongly about going one way or the other? Did you start out writing whatever you like and now write more for your readers? Are you mostly writing for yourself and hoping your work resonates with others?
I stick with the top two approaches. I can’t write about something that doesn’t interest me, but on the other hand, I try not to pander to my readers. I’d love to know how you approach writing for your blog and why.