“If you’re writing self-help content, the question of who the audience is inevitable. After all, at some point, someone’s supposed to be reading the content. And in my current understanding of people, it seems like there’s roughly two categories of readers (gross oversimplification alert!):
“One, if you’re already smart and self-sufficient, then you’re already combing all the coolest blogs and books for insight. You’re a hyper-scholar who has either read and gotten value out of what I have to offer, or you’ve already got even more sophisticated models.
“Two, if you’re the sort of insight junkie who’s looking for the next 5 minute article on how to restructure your workflow, then you may miss out on the actual good stuff. If you’re always only looking at the small insights, then the ontological lens of rationality (which is what I really want to illustrate), is largely lost.
“So I guess one strong reason for why the sort of rationality handbook I was envisioning hasn’t happened is because it doesn’t really help out either of the groups.”
At one point I tried to write a self-help book based on my reading of developmental psychology around operationalizing post-formal (adult) development. I worked up a bunch of fancy metaphors for explaining various things so they made intuitive sense and creating worksheets people could follow to help them along the way, but I ultimately abandoned the project for basically the audience reason you describe above.
If I was writing for people like me, then I by definition didn’t need what I was writing because I figured it out without it. In that case I need only keep linking to things to encourage people to check out the same ideas I had found so useful. If I was writing for people like the second ground you identify, those people seem mostly stuck and need to be pushed, but how you do this is highly individualized. So no matter what I wrote it would at best appeal to a very small audience, and so while maybe a worthy project was less clearly going to have a sufficiently impactful outcome for what I wanted to achieve.
My solution was to write for people like me about the new things I’m figuring out mostly and help people one-on-one in tailored ways that work for them since that seems more likely to me to produce the kinds of changes I would like to effect (I’d rather have a few, thorough, deep impacts than many partial, shallower impacts). Luckily for us it sounds like your preferences are leading you in a different direction where we’ll get to read some interesting intro content!
by definition didn’t need what I was writing because I figured it out without it.
You could figure it out without it, but having the compiled notes of someone who’s already done that search can still save you a decent amount of time. Having external confirmation that your vague inkling is on the right track also makes you faster to un-vague it.