“I don’t have an audience; I have a set of standards.”
Do you consider your audience when you’re writing?
I occasionally hear a version of this question from students in my writing class. The answer, however, is not as simple as one might think.
My first inclination is to reply, “No.” But that’s not entirely true: if I’m being honest with myself, ultimately the answer is both yes and no.
No because I am not a demographer: I don’t attempt to craft a message for 35–55-year-old white females or high school sophomores with divorced parents (though both demographics visit our website). Nor do I attempt to craft a message to appeal to the largest audience: doing so will result in a poorly-crafted product. Constantly worrying about what others might think is futile—and can translate into disingenuousness in your work. Hence why we removed comments from our website: we didn’t want to cater our message to the 0.1% of naysayers trolling the comment threads.
Yes because when I consider the readers, they look like me. Not that they’re 30-something-year-old, 6’2″, white males, but I assume my audience thinks much like me: open-minded, inquisitive, introspective. My typical readers struggle with important life issues, just like me. They’re inherently flawed, just like me. These are the points where we connect with one another.
Thus, I don’t attempt to craft a message that will appeal to all: I simply write for you—someone who thinks like me. We will disagree occasionally—even I disagree with myself at times—but we’re receptive to new ideas, and we’re willing to change our minds.
There are obvious examples in which this method of creation will not work—diapers, medications, computers—but for many creative types, it’s best to consider yourself the audience: despite our differences, there are millions of people just like me and you.
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