Thursday, September 13, 2007

Who am I writing for?

Many new bloggers, graduate students, unpublished authors, and seasoned professional writers alike sometimes wonder "who am I writing for"? Myself, being in the first two categories, and formerly the third, often wonder who I am writing for with a sort of desperation. Nobody's is reading what I write, so my writing is a pointless act of self-delusion. Other times, even if there is a suspected audience, we think that if we can only figure out who that audience is and what they want, then we can write the perfect piece and finally be the accomplished writers we know we can be. One of my undergraduate writing professors always belabored the point "know your audience". She had the entire class convinced that knowing the audience was the secret to professional writing.

While my professor was not wrong in her advice, and while knowing your audience can be helpful especially in business writing, William Zinsser in his book On Writing Well suggests a different approach:

"You are writing for yourself. Don't try to visualize the great mass audience. There is no such audience - every reader is a different person. Don't try to guess what sort of thing editors want to publish, or what you think the country is in a mood to read. Editors and readers don't know what they want to read until they read it" (p.25)

If you are writing for yourself, it's easy to know your audience. If you're writing for yourself, it's easier to stay motivated to practice your craft and write every day. Even if your feedburner says, as mine always does: 0 readers.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

i agree with this! writing for yourself is the best way to start!

9:51 PM  

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