This morning I got up, grabbed my coffee, and went outside to write. (The days I'll be able do this are numbered and I'm taking full advantage while I can.) I began writing about my day yesterday (2 Labor Day picnics = fun) and mentioned a couple people. Then I explained who these people are.
Which got me pondering:
Who am I writing to when I write in my journal? I'm obviously not writing to myself because I know these people. So why take the time to explain to the page who they are?
Because I'm writing to an audience. Even in my journal, apparently. Which is not as surprising as it seems when you consider that writing is communication, and communication implies a sender (the writer) and a receiver (the reader).
In the case of my journal, perhaps the audience I'm explaining things to is the page itself. I certainly don't glump my thoughts onto the page every morning with any expectation of people reading them. Quite the contrary–I'd be one unhappy camper if anyone did.
All this brilliant obsessive morning writing led me to wondering about other audiences, aka, readers. Who do I write to when I write?
Who do I write to when I write my novels? Years ago, I heard a novelist speak about her ideal reader. She had envisioned a clear image of the average reader of her books and when she sat at her computer she visualized this reader. Do you do this? I have to admit that I don't. But when I think about it, sometimes when I'm writing I do have an audience in mind–my weekly critique group, the first readers of my work. This is a fairly unconscious thing. I have to really dig deep to realize when I'm doing this.
So, good idea or bad to have an audience in mind while writing?
Perhaps the idea of writing to an intended reader could have a bad side if you're constantly thinking about how they will judge you. When doing first draft writing, you really want to set your inner critic to work doing something else so that you can write. Just write. You want to do the work without judging, letting yourself fly wonderfully wild and free on the page. (Doesn't that sound like fun? I miss working on my novel. I set it aside to finish the Emma Jean edits.)
And I can see a good side to keeping your readers in mind if you're beyond the first draft, and engaged in a more editorial type of work–rewriting and revising. Perhaps you're keeping your ideal reader in mind because you want to make sure she keeps turning the pages. Or you're keeping your audience front and center so that you don't fall back onto sloppy writing habits.
And what about non-fiction? Keeping your ideal readers in mind might allow you to stay on topic and hew to what you know your intended reader is interested in. When I write blog posts I stick to articles about writing, inspiration, motivation and spirituality. Those are the things you're used to me writing about. Those are the topics my readers expect to read about. So that is keeping an ideal reader in mind–because, you know, those of you who so kindly and loyally read this blog are my wonderful ideal readers!
So I guess this blog post doesn't come to any conclusions and instead asks a lot of questions. It's a topic I'll ponder further. Oh God–I almost forgot to include the best quote of all time about who a writer writes for:
"People ask me who I write for, I tell them I write for the rain." Tom Robbins
A caveat here: I'm quoting this from memory. I believe Robbins said it in a long-ago profile in Esquire and I've never forgotten it. (He's a Northwesterner like me.) But the wording of the quote might not be exactly exact.
To continue the questioning, who do you write for? Do you have an ideal reader in mind when you write? I'd love to hear either way.
Photo by cwsillero.