Who are you writing for?

by little red pen

Dear friend,

I know that writing can sometimes be terrifying, that the fear of being judged or not knowing what to say can jam all the signals between your brain and the page. And this terror can manifest in procrastination, in finding a multitude of delays and byways to stall the writing moment.

You probably already know lots of ways to deal with procrastination: work in small chunks; start the day by writing anything (shopping lists, rambles, blog, a plan for the day) until your computer screen is full; go for a walk; aim to stop writing two paragraphs into a new section rather than at the end of a section (because you might get the momentum to keep going); take a break and get outside for ten minutes, and so on, and so on, and sometimes these work, and sometimes they just… don’t.

But there’s something else that might help you get through this writing process and help you as you develop as a writer (you know you’re a writer, right?), and that’s to shift your focus from yourself as the writer to your audience or readers. I reckon that thinking of the reader takes some of the emotional sting out of writing. And with a bit of luck, it will also help you keep your writing clear and easy to understand, your structure and argument logical and well-signposted, and your reader interested and engaged.

So, as you plan, as you write, and as you revise, you might ask yourself some questions:

  • does the reader know what my argument is and how it develops?
  • is the structure of my piece logical, and do I signal the structure with headings, subheadings, introductions and conclusions?
  • am I telling the reader what the purpose and content of each section is?
  • will the reader understand my language and enjoy reading it?
  • can the reader follow the flow of my writing, seeing how paragraphs link together, how quotes illustrate my argument, and how my points build on each other?

Think of giving people a reading experience, rather than of them judging you. And pour your energy into making that experience engaging, informative, enlightening, satisfying, thought-provoking. Think of your writing as a work for your readers, rather than just as a reflection of you. Remember, your readers might have thoughts about your work, but they have no power or authority to judge you as a person.

Anyway, that’s about as much as I can manage before lunch. Hang in there, sweetpea, and know that lots of people have faith in you and love you regardless.

xo, little red pen.