Posted by: Jim Adcock | February 11, 2011

“If a tree falls in a forest…”

“…and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?”

You write and you write, but no one is reading your stuff. Can you still be successful, or does that mean you are a failure?

I’m pretty sure the answer to the first is yes, and if true, it follows that you can be successful even without an audience. Of course, the noise of the tree falling is an incidental side-effect of the tree falling rather than its purpose, so it also follows that the answer to the second question depends entirely on what your purpose is…

The recent posting on the Daily Post pointed to the following article with 7 tips for better writing habits.

A confession and 7 steps to better writing habits I’m experiencing a bad case of writing resolutions whiplash. At the start of 2011, I was all revved up and ready to plunge into my writing practice like a pelican diving head first into an ocean seething with slippery, silvery deliciousness. I had plans – Big Plans. “This is the year,” I said, my heart full of confidence and enthusiasm. And then my daughter came down with the flu. And then I came down with the flu. We had a succession of snow day … Read More

via Live to Write – Write to Live

The relevant portion is tip #2 –

Have a purpose

I like the word “purpose” because it conveys a certain sense of fate. Goals sometimes seem cold and clinical, but a purpose is an almost spiritual thing. A purpose is bigger than any one goal or task. It’s the thing that inspires you to keep slogging, even through the worst days. It’s what goes in your obituary when you’ve shuffled off this mortal coil. Try saying, “Writing is my purpose.” How does that feel? What about, “Bringing joy is my purpose.”

If your purpose is simply to write for the joy of writing, or to practice and hone your craft, or to journal just to get the stuff out of you and on to (virtual) paper, then yes, you can be successful as a blogger even without an audience. (Though I would imagine it is not as satisfying as having an audience.)

For me, my purpose here is to help people be more effective bloggers. If nobody reads what I write, I can’t have helped anyone, so I will not have satisfied my purpose.

At my main blog, my purpose is two-fold. First is to help people (anyone sensing a theme?) solve SharePoint problems and career management problems (particularly focused on getting out of unemployment). Second is to promote myself as an expert in my particular industry (SharePoint Analysis, Administration, and Customization). Without an audience, I can’t accomplish either of those goals using the blog.

I’m guessing that your purpose also requires that you develop your audience. However, once you have figured out your purpose, you should have a good idea of who your audience should be. The next step is to find out where the audience is hiding….

Jim Adcock is a SharePoint Administrator, and blogs about SharePoint at his main blog, Working It Out. He is also Vice President of Launch Pad Job Club, an organization in Austin, Texas, whose mission is help people who have lost their jobs to get the skills they need to land their next job, and to help them cope with the interim between jobs. Consequently, Jim also blogs about career management. He also serves as Secretary on the Austin Software Process Improvement Network Board of Directors. He also wants to know why everyone keeps asking him about sleep…



  1. […] I do think, though, that even generalist bloggers need a purpose (from the post “If a Tree Falls in a Forest”). If your purpose is to wander, then you are successful if you are wandering. […]

  2. Jim,

    Thanks for sharing my post and for adding your own riff. Keeping your purpose in mind when you evaluate your progress and success is so important. If you only measure against the accomplishments of others, you’ll just end up chasing shadows and losing track of your own destination.

    Good luck with all your writing endeavors!

    • Thank YOU for writing your post so that I could appreciate it, learn from it, and add my riff.

      And that is another excellent point – not measuring yourself against others. If you use someone else’s map, you’ll be taking their path, not your own, and you’ll always be following them, instead of leading (and inspiring) others.

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