Whom Are You Writing For Again?

By Michael

Writing is a form of communication, but for many amateur writers, its most important purpose is for communicating with themselves. That sounds strange, but seeing your own words on paper helps you understand who you are and what you’re thinking, even in the moment as you’re writing them down. Don’t underestimate the value of writing something that nobody else may ever see.

Ther’s nothing wrong with being your own sole audience. Emily Dickinson and Franz Kafka both wanted their works burned after their death. Writing can be therapeutic. Even if you’re a serious writer, you may not want a lot of people to see your early work. Though if you want to learn, show it to someone. That’s the only way you can know for sure how it’s coming across, or if it’s coming across at all.

So I’m not speaking to those who want to write for themselves alone. Maybe you’re the author of what Seth Godin calls a “cat blog” – you write about you and your cat, and nobody but you and your cat would be interested in reading it. And your cat can’t read.

But most writers want to move beyond our cat blog. If you didn’t want anybody to ever read what you wrote, you’d write in a locked diary, not a blog. Real communication is between people, and most writing is intended to be read by someone else. Just as the process of writing helps you understand yourself, the process of writing for others helps you understand them.

By imagining your audience listening to what you’re writing, you become more sensitive to how (and whether) you’re communicating. (By actually standing before an audience and watching their reactions, you become even more sensitive – that’s one reason why I joined Toastmasters International). One of the benefits of writing is that it helps you get in touch with what’s real. By writing for a definite audience and a definite purpose, you become more aware of whether what you’re saying makes sense. By re-reading your work as if you were someone else, you can decide whether something would make more sense if you rephrased it – or whether rephrasing it, unfortunately, wouldn’t really help. Keeping your reader in mind as you write helps to tune your inner “stink detector” that alerts you when your writing stinks.

The storytellers of ages past, perhaps addressing fellow tribesmen around a fire after a hunt, knew when they were communicating. They knew when their audience was following the storyline, and when they were getting confused. They knew when the tale was keeping their audience’s attention and when the tribesmen were plain bored.

As a writer today, you probably don’t have a campfire handy, and probably no fellow tribesmen available to give you feedback for your writing. You’ll have to make do the best you can. If you can’t find potential audience members to read your writing for you, you’ll have to imagine that you do. But imagine them well. Imagine them accurately. Or else build a fire and hope that some listeners gather around it soon.

Writing for yourself is fine, sometimes. But knowing that somebody is going to read it, and knowing exactly who they might be, can help you overcome vagueness, foolishness, and even writer’s block. An audience can give you your reason to write.

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7 Responses to “Whom Are You Writing For Again?”

  • Santhosh

    Interesting observations. It will definitely help if we understand whom we are writing for.

  • Sara

    Shouldn’t that be, “For whom are you writing again?”

  • Blogging Millionare

    I am writing to other bloggers so my writing needs to be good and easy to understand.

  • Bobby Ozuna

    I think it is very important for anyone who takes their own writing serious enough to put it on paper–whether that be in the form of a locked diary, a blogger, journalist or even the novelist–to understand WHY they write. I did some soul searching in my early years of writing and later on I wrote about it–primarily for myself–but with the understanding that others, potentially thousands of people may read my words. (See HTML link below)

    That is the beauty of the blog…you write to understand who you are, with relation to your writing or in general–and you share it with the world, to add color to the soul of the world. That’s what artists do…whether you are famous or the lowly blogger at home writing about your cat… All words have meaning for someone other than yourself…and that’s the beauty and power of the written word.

    Bobby Ozuna
    “Why I Write”

  • Bunny got Blog

    This article is pretty cool. I just started to blog about four months ago. I sometimes think I have to much to say about too much.
    I do enjoy it very much.

  • PreciseEdit

    Audience is very important. Here’s a snippet of one of our articles on the subject.

    —————————-

    Marketing Questions to Improve Writing

    One of the central tenets of marketing is that you should understand your target market segment–your intended customers. Who will buy your product or engage your service? What do those people want? What expectations do they have? How will they use your product? Most importantly, what needs do they have that your product/service satisfy?

    How does this relate to writing? Actually, it’s pretty simple. Assuming that you are not just writing for your own benefit (e.g., journals, diaries), you want other people to read what you write. You have a market segment, which we will call your intended audience. Who are your readers? What do they want to read, and what type of writing characteristics do they expect? When, where, and how do they read? Why would they want to read what you have written?

    As you can see, these are the same questions as mentioned in the first paragraph above. When our editors at Precise Edit work with authors, these are the questions that we ask.

  • Carolyn Wilker

    I’m a Toastmaster too. As a storyteller who also writes and speaks, I’ve experienced the challenge of putting something written into spoken words, but that’s a different topic.

    I agree that the speaker knows when people are listening, since they sometimes lean forward in their chairs and are attentive. One does not need a campfire to tell stories.

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