Writing for the Right Audience
Who is the audience for personal writing, especially personal writing that is shared online?
I write for a living. I never thought I might get paid to write, nor did I think of a lawyer as someone who writes a lot (argues a lot, maybe, per the popular misconception)—until I did. I have always enjoyed writing for my own pleasure. But, with writing more for a job, I’ve lapsed into almost no writing for my own creative benefit.
Of late, when I’ve sat down to write for myself, the chief obstacle I encounter is in determining where this writing will end up. In my personal outlets for posting, my options seem legion. I could post a quip on Twitter, I could post on my cobweb-laden personal Wordpress blogs, my neglected Tumblr, a nice photo with a long caption on Instagram, or there’s something newer than all those called Medium.
With an overabundance of platforms, I’m unsure where my speaking into the abyss of the Internet will be most effective. Who is reading? Who am I connecting with? I assume that by selecting one of these platforms I might meet more eyes or the audience best suited to my message. When I was a teenager writing on Xanga, I never would have thought twice about this. I wrote because it was something that I enjoyed. My audience was me, trying to poke at some truth or insight, hoping perhaps that someone else might enjoy, agree, or disagree—feel moved in the way I did when I read back my own thoughts.
(Interruption from Sara: that audience actually turned out to be a girl looking for a boy to take her to Olive Garden. And that girl was named Sara. And that Sara is me.)
In my departure from leisure writing, I have experienced the clarity that comes with knowing who I am addressing. If I am writing for someone else, I know my audience: my client, an opposing party, the court. I place myself in a chair in front of a screen, and I write. It might be in Microsoft Word (Windows or Mac), it might be in Outlook, in my browser version of Gmail, or in some fancy Mac-native app for Gmail, Exchange, etc. (because it should be pretty). With little regard to the platform (so long as it saves drafts), I deliver.
I hope this collaboration with Sara will draw me back to that basic truth that I hold for myself: writing is creating, and it is good for my soul to create, because I am innately creative. Perhaps this outlet will direct me a clearer understanding of my creative purpose.
I write, the way a musician composes a song, the way an artist stencils a sketch. But why do we create?
Because we want to for ourselves and because—in a sense—we must. No one else has the exact gift that we do, no one else sees, hears, or feels the world in quite the same way. We create in response to our experience. We hope to connect with others by virtue of our own creative record-keeping. It sounds selfish to state it in this way, but it isn’t. Creating for this purpose, and sharing it, is one of the least selfish things we can do. In sharing, we affirm our participation in humanity with others. We proclaim: I create, because I am creative, and you are, too.
So I affirm what my teenage self stumbled upon without effort: I am my audience. I write online in hopes that a public profession of my thoughts makes my experience more powerful and effective. I write online to open myself up for criticism and for insight from others. I invite the perspective that I do not have by publishing the only perspective I can so deeply know.