For whom do you write?
This question is always there. If you are a blogger/writer, or in general, someone engaged in an artistic pursuit in the public domain, I bet you have toyed with this question many times w.r.t your craft. It’s not always easy to frame the answer to this question.
For whom do you write? For whom should you write?
Some days, you write just for yourself – A way of self-expression or probably the path to preserving a memory. Maybe you are working your way through a feeling or arriving at a decision. And this personalization, this tussle with emotions or this zeal to capture time shows through.
Some days, you write fluff, click-bait even. Maybe it is a sponsored post with a “dollar value” attached to it and it is your responsibility as a conscientious blogger/freelancer to get as many eyeballs to the content as possible for the sake of your sponsor (and future sponsorships!). Or, maybe you are simply obsessed with site traffic and growing your blog. But this ulterior motive, this urge “to be paid for all that hard work” shows through.
Some days, you just write. Maybe out of a sense of duty, maybe because you need to have that discipline. “I must, I have to!”, the voice inside your head keeps nudging you. So you write. And this lack of interest, this ennui shows through.
But then, there are some other days – and these are THE ULTIMATE DRUG days for all writers – when you write for your ideal reader. That one imaginary (or real) person who would read your content and “be impressed” (to put it mildly) by what you have to say. The person who would vibe with your consciousness exactly the way you hoped someone would and this thought motivates you to give your one hundred percent, your “all” to your art. As one of my favorite authors, Stephen King wrote in his biographical book “On Writing”:
I believe the same thought can be extrapolated to any type of creative writing, including writing personal essays. Maybe it is a real person who inspires you to write, maybe it is an imaginary person who you think would benefit from what you have to say, but there are some days when you write for your ideal reader. And on all such days, your passion, your love for your craft shines through.
This is the ultimate reason, the drug, why writers (or all artists in general) find it hard to quit.
Defining your ideal reader
So, how do you go about finding, rather defining, your ideal reader? In a nutshell, your ideal reader is the person (real or imaginary) whose opinion (real or imaginary) is what would weigh heavier on your mind than everyone else’s if and when they read your creation.
For example, when I am writing about light and dark, I am thinking about the reader in the throes of depression who would find solidarity in my words. When I am writing about redefining labels, I am thinking about the reader who doesn’t fit in – the weird, the freak, the outcast – who would be reassured by my writing that labels are confusing as hell anyway.
Every time I write an adverb or an unnecessary word/sentence – and I do it often – I find myself visualizing the great Stephen King being snarky, and belittling my writing! Not that I always heed this imaginary disgust and take corrective action, but I do find myself deleting “just”, “very” and anything-“ly” more often these days.
And that, in my opinion, should be the core quality of your ideal reader.
Once you have visualized your ideal reader, you would find your writing flowing faster, easier. You would know the sentences that they would hate, the sentences which would elicit laughter and the sentences that would touch their souls. And this knowledge, I believe, is the core to finding your honest writing voice, to knowing what makes your writing come alive and reflect your soul.
[SIDE NOTE: Just so you know, my ideal reader is a bibliophile, a TV/movie/music-lover, a perfectionistic to the core (I have learned to ignore this trait) and snarky as hell (just like my inner voice – although, I have been told I am pretty “mellow” on the outside 😉 ) to name a few of his/her “critique” qualities]
Working towards finding your writing voice
You look at this world from your unique vantage point of your experiences and inner mechanics. And if you are a writer (irrespective of whether you think you are a good or a crappy one), it is imperative that you work towards finding your unique writing voice. (I am still learning and working to improve my craft. But when I look back and read the things I wrote in my first year, I know that I have come a long, long way!) So yeah, in short, you must find the things that make you tick in this world and write about them.
And the next time, you look at the keys on your laptop, raring to let your fingers tap dance their way to a new creation, remember to take a moment. Breathe deeply and ask yourself this “Who is driving my art today? Is it a memory capsule, is it money/fame, is it ennui or is it passion? Who am I trying to impress today?”
I bet the moment you ask it, your “ideal reader” for the post will materialize then and there (in spirit), pull up a chair by your side and start reading over your shoulders as the words pour into the white space. And believe it or not, long before you press publish on the post, you would know it in your heart whether they are nodding in admiration and approval or crinkling their eyes in polite tolerance hoping that you would rethink your post (or in my case, biting my head off “You call this writing? Quit already, will ya!“).