Monday, November 23, 2009

Writing for an Audience

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Of course it does! How conceited of humans to think that a sound in nature requires their presence before it is validated as occurring. If the tree falls and you’re standing beside it and it makes an audible noise, then it made that noise. You didn’t cause the noise by listening to it. If a tree falls in the forest and no human is around to hear the noise but a deer is standing below it, do people honestly believe it would fall silently thus creating the possibility of it killing the deer? Ridiculous!

Where was I going with this?

Oh right! I was going to use the analogy to discuss writing. I took a course some years back, where we were taught to consider your audience when writing. If it’s a letter, a technical manual, a paper on the juxtaposition of characters in a play, you need to know your audience to write clearly and concisely. It was early on in my university career, and I think the important lesson for many in the class was not who the audience was, but that there was an audience.

Sure, we all considered that our professor would read our paper, how else would we get a grade, but writing on a topic they are teaching rather than writing for someone who is not teaching the material is very different. Is your prof looking to have you explain something they taught you to them as though you are teaching it? Or are they looking to have you explain your mastery of the material as a peer? The idea of audience becomes important. You have to decide, above all else, who do I want to have read this?

The memory of that lesson was sparked in me as I was wondering, would that lesson still even need to be taught? We are living in a world where we have blogging, myspace, facebook, twitter, instant messaging, email, text messaging and a host of other media available to us. Most people today just assume they have an audience. They update their status or comment on a picture, all the while expecting others to read it. Not just read it, but comment on it as well.

Everyone wants to have an opinion, and want others to have an opinion on their opinions. Well, maybe not really an opinion, but to validate their assumption of audience. We want to send our opinions out into the ether…but more than that, we want someone to read them. We don’t want to be the tree, falling, crashing down, making noise regardless of who can or can not hear. We envision an audience and want the witty banter and remarks that go with it. We want the acknowledgment, your voice is heard.

I write for an audience. I may not have one, but I write for one, at all times, even if the audience is me. A reminder note at work needs to be clear, what if I forget what I was thinking at the time? The grocery list needs to be spelled correctly, (tomatoe, tomato?) what if I ask my husband to go for me? An entry in my journal reads like a letter to a long lost friend, I don’t want to sound stupid when I read back through it, and what if I don’t remember the event I’m discussing? I need enough details to conjure up an image to someone who didn’t write it, even though that mythical person would never read it.

I write for an audience of me’s, a group of people who, like me, like to read interesting, funny, or witty things. They like to laugh, and occasionally think of a witty remark and comment. The problem with my audience of me is that we consider too deeply the audience and tend to not comment, thereby removing the validation of the audience altogether. We have moved to an age where we are considering the audience at all times when we write. The most mundane of things in our lives have become public, true we make them public, but now we consider that someone is watching, listening, reading. There is always an audience. This consideration causes censoring at times, and liberating locked versions of ourselves or our thoughts at others. When I write I hope for the latter, but know often I don’t write, and instead censor something I fear would be considered stupid.

To my grande old audience of me, and the occasional friend who reminds me about my blog giving audience to my lack of writing, all comments here are accepted, and encouraged. How else will I validate my assumption of audience?

I certainly don’t want to just crash through the forest with pomp and fan-fair only to end without acknowledgement, or better yet, applause.


  1. Shouldn't you be working??

  2. *CRASH*......
    *gets up stumbling, shakes head*
    Where the hell did that tree come from...

  3. kingbell6:47 PM

    I concur with Xtreme, although that's forgiven by having circuitously mentioned me in the blog. A passing thought: If a tree-top falls in the forest, they call it a widow maker. That means a woman could walk through a forest of broken, hanging tree-tops without fear. It also begs the question: The deer you refer to in your blog: Is it a buck or a doe?

  4. Ok seriously cool pic for your re-vampedness...

  5. Anonymous10:05 PM

    Well, Scarlet, I do declare! This is a verrry fancy blog! Very fancy indeed.
    BTW, the tree falling is only an intersection of our sensory interpretations of it...and greenpeace would say that the deer is, in fact, someone.

  6. I like that, BTW your entire rebuke of the tree falling in the forest argument is completely false, but fancy blog. lol Nicely done. :)