We write. We create. Some of us hope to have a byline or a book that translates into readers reading our writing. Bringing these two things together, a writer writing to be read, can be a curious and unsettling process.
When you, or people like you and me write, whether it’s writing articles, poems, stories, news releases, brochures, annual reports, speeches, plays, signs, posters, blog posts, books, menus, catalogue copy, scripts, advertising copy or graffiti on a bathroom wall (confession: once) we are trying to say something. It might be that we are being paid to say something for a client, but if you are anything like me, you hope that the assignment gives you the freedom to write well rather than produce committee approved weasel-wordy corporate crap that reads badly and says nothing. I am not biting the hand that feeds me by the way, my clients have been cool.
To move from being a writer to being an author, if that’s what a writer wishes to do, means being read by many people, as opposed to the dog or bird or cat or person who lives in your home with you.
Perhaps in writing to be read, with our name, our byline, to be an author of something, we are trying to make a mark on the huge wall of the world that says in some way, I am here, I was here; some part of us imagining that at least one passerby will read or hear what we have written and be moved, or affected or somehow touched by our the words we wrote.
It’s a huge leap to think of readers. Sitting down to write is tough enough; sitting down thinking about readers it could become paralyzing.
I’ve found it helpful in my paid work to know about the audience and what the key take-away message is. That’s all the readership I need to know. In my personal writing, I don’t think about readers — I’d choke if I did. I write to write, paint with words, express, get something out. Me writing for me is not about writing to be read. It’s writing to write and to practice writing and sometimes to get thoughts out of my head, a la Lord Byron.
However, editing is all about the reader. It’s the process that transforms writing into reading material. Sometimes that means what I’m writing will not go anywhere; it’ll sit in the works in progress file, or the thoughts on paper file. Other times it has meant that 20 pages of writing at draft #1 starts draft #2 as a single paragraph that was buried on page four, because it’s the only thing that made any sense, was the crux of the story, and was a good launching pad into the rest of it.
During editing, everything us under the microscope of readability, every single word, all punctuation is on the block for deletion, moving around or finding another home in another piece.
If people are going to be so gracious as to grant me a minute of their reading time, I want them to feel it is a well-spent minute and rewarding: a thought to take a way, a turn of phrase that appeals to them, some reason to read what I’ve written.
And as a reader, I expect the same consideration.