Who Do I Write For?

I fancy myself a writer. If you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, recording your thoughts, dreams and stories, then you are indeed a writer, so I fulfill the functionary prerequisite. I started thinking about this from the perspective of the reader. Who do I write for? I mean, I write stuff that is interesting to me and that I would like to read, but if I really was just writing for myself, there is no reason to write it down at all. I can just think about it. I must be writing to share with someone. Who? Who is my audience?

When I read Hemingway, McCarthy, or any great writer (and there are many), I’m amazed at their prose. Some read quite purple and flowery, and some are immaculate and intense. Still others are so refined, it’s evident that I am not their intended audience, but I marvel at the literary quality. Whom are they writing for?

I’ve heard writing referred to as weaving a tapestry of words. If that is true, then I don’t think my writing is like making tapestries. I think I make t-shirts with amusing slogans on them like ‘Who Farted?’ Or ‘I’m with stupid’ with an arrow pointing up. I’m fine with that. There is quite a market for amusing t-shirts, after all.

So there it is. I’m writing for the every man. I’m writing stories that I hope appeal to the average person, who does average things in an average way. I suppose that makes my writing average as well. I don’t think that means I am settling for less, as I don’t aspire to write things that have limited appeal or may be flawless but dull. I want to have characters the reader identifies with, and above all, I want to tell a good story that has a satisfying conclusion. I hope that I get a laugh occasionally, too.

Thumba_2011-05-29_22-21-18The one exception is my journal, which I am writing for one person. It’s a leather bound book with lined, acid-free paper, and what I write here is only for my son. I started the journal when the adoption process began. I wrote in it several times a day as we trekked across Ukraine, going from orphanage to orphanage until we finally found him. I drew pictures and maps, and I told my son what I was thinking about him before I had even met him. I still write in it, but now it is more like once or twice every year. Still, I write in it, and it’s important that I don’t forget. When he turns eighteen years old, I will break the seal on the Ukrainian vodka I brought home in 2001, have a drink with my son and I will give him this journal. He will read it for the first time.

Maybe that is really who I write for.

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8 thoughts on “Who Do I Write For?

  1. Mitch,

    I gave a somewhat facitious response to you the first time I read this several months ago. When I re-read it just now, it occured to me that we do have to decide who our audience is depending on what we’re writing.

    I know I don’t aim for Pulitzer audiences. I know that rarified group seldom puts out things I myself want to read, so why would I write in a voice that is aimed for people I don’t respect?

    I also know much that I write, no one in my family, the people who matter so much, will ever read voluntarily. I gave my sister copies of my first 2 published stories in anthologies for Pill Hill Press and she said, “Why would I want these?” That shut me down, I can tell you! My husband and sons dislike short story format and are not into poetry, so when I write, I guess it’s not for them.

    One of the most important things I’ve ever written was on the eve of my wedding. I wrote a loving letter to my daughter. 37 yrs later, I know I’ll never have a daughter. Yet, when I read the brownish bit of paper, I see a map of my dreams, so I guess I really wrote for hope.

    You’re a man who thinks, indeed. But you are a writer, too. I follow your work, so I guess that makes me average in your estimation. And that’s fine.

    Twana

  2. Mitch, you cover what is a vital question as to who is the audience for our writings…And I think your T-Shirt idea may well develop way beyond that..So I wish you well with the ongoing adventure, the discoveries along the way…

    And I must say, I am not sure for myself, as the spectrum of writings I play with often means the work will only appeal to small and separate pockets of readers…So your piece here is valuable…Maybe it’s time for me to be more consistent?

    But I love the journal for your adopted son..How special that will be, and your child is getting a real treasure – an immense gift of time from you with all your thoughts and dreams, and those wishes for him too I would guess..
    Barbara XX

  3. Well, Mitch
    Why does anyone write — come to that. For most it isn’t even beer money. It is amusing, frustrating, torturous and obsessive. Family and friends want to wait until it is in book form or a movie — that way they won’t be wasting their time — someone else has made the decision that it is worthwhile. And then they want to know if they featur. And if not — why not!
    For me, it is to follow the thought through or a character or a plot. So I’d say I write for me, and I am always surprised but delighted if any of it appeals to someone else. If I can find a reader.
    There
    I think I have hit on the perfect career path. A reader for writers for hire.

    Love the T-shirt concept, it’d be a super way to advertise a blog.

    Kate

  4. Twana – I’m so sorry that your sister doesn’t take interest in your writing. But that is the thing about creating any art, it’s not for everyone. I admire good poetry, but I don’t really find it a form that I read for enjoyment. Sometimes, how cultivated and educated you are affects your ability to enjoy a certain poetry, prose or format.

    And I love the concept of a letter written for a daughter yet to be born. Just in what you described there about the letter, there is a wonderful story arc you could capitalize on. Just sayin’…

  5. Barbara – I act like I know who I’m writing for, but I’m all over the board. I write some horror, some humor, some mainstream, fiction and nonfic.

    I can’t see pinning down to one genre and just doing that, though that is a clear way to develop recognition with a reader base. But I do think it is a good question – “Who would want to read this story/novel/poem I am writing?” Publishers and Agents live in a space where that question is perhaps the most important one to know the answer to.

  6. Kate – The quest for readers. People are too busy these days. Myself, I have a list of books I want to read but haven’t gotten to, and I’m not sure when I will. Still haven’t read Farewell to Arms and it’s been on the list for years.

    I can’t fault someone for not being interested in my writing, but I can demonstrate sincere appreciation when someone is interested in it, and I love ya, girl.

  7. I think your last comment is spot on for me , Mitch..
    ‘ can’t fault someone for not being interested in my writing, but I can demonstrate sincere appreciation when someone is interested in it,’

    And I’ve got a pile of books here, waiting for me to read them, though I am reading Patti Smith’s JUST KIDS and enjoying it immensely…

    Reading, writing…it’s a lifetime’s work ..but a real pleasure..

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