For Whom Do You Write?
Who is your audience? The writing authorities advise us to pen our prose and poetry for others, or for that single make-believe companion sitting across the room, expectantly waiting to imbibe our enlightening words of wisdom. (Sometimes, I write to my plants. That counts, right?) Write about topics that our audience can resonate with. Adjust our voice so that it harmonizes with their expectations.
If you’re a blogger or earning a paycheck for your writing, there’s a pretty good chance you know who your audience is. But what about the rest of us wandering souls who can’t seem to figure out who the hell we’re doing this for?
I’ve finally figured it out. My audience is: Myself.
I Can’t Be Someone Else (No Matter How Much I Wish I Could Be Sometimes)
When I try to write for others, a fake persona emerges, a counterfeit “me” who shouldn’t be allowed. Ideas and voices from a foreign source slither their way in without permission and proceed to take over, flowing through my pen onto paper in a dizzying pool of fraud. I write the wrong things. Like stuff I don’t give a damn about. For example, can you believe I once wrote a blog post about how to organize a pantry? Who reads that shit? (Ok, fine, I do. I may or may not have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to pantry organization. But I certainly don’t want to write about it.)
And my voice is thoroughly Not. Mine. When I focus on a non-me audience, it’s like I start channeling one of those cheery food or minimalist or crafty writers who are more than happy to share their recipes for garlic-bacon-wrapped, broiled asparagus, or technique for creating the perfect minimalist office, or the best way to knot a macramé wall hanging. After some long-winded life story. Ugh. I’m neither cheery nor long-winded. Well, the non-cheeriness is true anyway. (By the way, I love you food-and other-bloggers and I’ve enjoyed and learned so much from all of you.)
But whatever. I’m not writing with the expectation of being paid for it. I do it simply for the freedom and enjoyment it allows me to feel in a confusing and brutal, yet enchanting world. And also because I’m all wrong with words when I speak them. (And most of the time, when I write them too, but that’s ok.)
Write Your Truth
I want to write my truth. Really, that’s the only thing I’m able to write, and the only thing any of us are capable of. I’m unqualified to write your truth because it’s different from mine. Maybe we can convince each other that our truths are similar, but it’s ok if we don’t.
Our truths are different because we’re all gawking at the world and each other through different spectacles. Some of us are donning bifocals or sunglasses or the proverbial rose-colored glasses. Lenses made up of experiences, conditioning, beliefs that are ingrained into our very physical beings. Life adventures that include a harrowing childhood, or unimaginable loss, or calming a logical mind in an illogical world. Beliefs that are nailed into us from the beginning, and can only be truly embraced or discarded by sheer will of presence.
When you write your truth for yourself, you can write whatever you want. I want to correspond with orcas. (And I have.) Describe the crackling sound that rain makes as it falls through the dense grove of forest encircling my home. Assemble a list of things that provokes God to gasp in bliss. Scribe a short story about the stars as they consider each other, and discuss why some of them have to outlive the others. Kind of like what we do with other human beings that we love sometimes.
I want to write about people too. The guy with the gray beard down to his waist who lives on five acres and raises parakeets and marijuana, but is secretly a spy for the government and has to enlist his neighbor to look after the birds while he’s on missions. Or the young, deaf girl with long stringy blond hair who strolls down the bustling city street, seemingly without a care in the world, but who sees everyone’s secrets. Creations contrived from the authentic reality of heart, more real than what I observe outside my window.
Writing is much easier when I decide to just write for myself. Almost none of my stuff sees the light of day. It’s mine alone and I keep it hidden away, like something too precious to share, and if I were to allow it release, it would be degraded somehow and cease to be strange and wonderful.
And also because, letting others read my writing terrifies me.
But what if…
Something magical happens though, when you write to and for yourself, yet decide to share it with the world (however that looks for you). Someone, somewhere, in some time will resonate with your words, your voice, your message. And they will take it to heart and maybe it will change them in ways you perhaps will never know about. Then, they may share it with others, loved ones, who may need it as much as they do. I kind of like not knowing if and when that will ever happen. I don’t wish to carry that burden. But sometimes we don’t have a choice and we will know, and then we need to figure out how to be comfortable with it.
By all means, write for an audience other than yourself if you wish. Write for other people or write for a gang of mythical creatures. I read a lot; I’m definitely part of audiences and carry an intense amount of gratitude for those who write for me.
But write for yourself too.