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Who Is Your Reader?

Who do you write for? Who do you think of when drafting a post?

Many of us write for ourselves — we scribble our innermost thoughts in journals. We draft private blog posts. Or we write personal musings but don’t mind if our readers’ eyes fall upon them. But really, if you’re here on WordPress.com, you likely want to be part of something bigger: to make your voice heard and contribute to the conversation.

I recently wrote about my own struggle with blogging:

When I write with the intent to publish, when I write with the internet in mind — which is really all the time — the process is something else entirely. Something so different from the years I used to write in my journal, where I cleared the cobwebs and allowed my thoughts to stir in the same private space, over and over.

As bloggers, we set our words free with just the click of the Publish button, and oftentimes I think we conflate writing with publishing. When I’m drafting a post, it’s hard not to think about my readers — thousands of avatars amid a sea of pixels. Is this relevant and timely and now? Will this resonate? And then I freeze. Sometimes I delete the draft. Most of the time, I tell myself I’ll come back to it, and it ends up sitting in my dashboard. Forever.

In a post on the intrinsic value of blogging, WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg talks about how blogging is harder than it used to be — that amidst obsessing over stats, counting Likes, and waiting for comments, we forget about what really counts, like genuine engagement, thoughtful interaction, and focusing on what you truly want to say.

Matt suggests simple, practical advice: write for two people. Write for yourself, and for one other person you have in mind, as if writing them a letter:

. . . when I get caught up in that the randomness of what becomes popular or generates commentary and what doesn’t it invariably leads me to write less. So blog just for two people.

On Twitter, I asked: When you draft a post, do you write with someone specific in mind? Who is your reader? Or do you just write? A few responses suggest many of you just write (and we love this hands-off approach):

But how can we make Matt’s advice work for us? What can we do? Andrea Badgley commented that when she feels stuck, she thinks about Amy, her friend of more than 25 years:

I write a letter to her in my journal. I write to two people — myself and Amy — and the freedom in that loosens the words.

Dorry-kun also suggests evolving from this and shaping The Reader in your head:

I was always writing to my girlfriend. Every single published word was aimed at her, because I thought she would be the only one to listen. It really helped me a lot.

I feel I have grown since then — I no longer write just for her. Nowadays I kind of switch between her and The Reader, an imaginary reader. I have no idea who he is. I just know he is male and reads my literary concoctions.

So, next time you sit down to write a post, ask yourself: who is your reader? Then, write your post with this person in mind. When you think about this specific individual as you write, you might find your focus is sharper, your voice stronger, and your writer self more confident.

I’d love to hear about your own muses: who do you write for? 

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  1. Today I have learnt. It is always been what I feel, my struggles and my fears. Now I know that blogging is about that voice that cannot be heard, about that reader who is going through something.

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  2. Ya! I agree. I write about things what I read before for my friends. Since I’m University student, I’m glad to post it to my friends like me.I am more interested in writing about historical,spiritual,cultural…etc views on my country Ethiopia and on my religion Orthodox ‘Tewahedo.’ And the other thing what I gonna do here is that I may copy different views and paste here from different sources. Thank u.

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  3. Writing to publish can backfire depending on what you’re writing. Knowing your audience is key, but once you put pressure to write for publication sometimes the writing can become lost.

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  4. Most times when I write I have a person in mind. I often write in response to a specific thing I’ve seen, read or overheard. The only problem I have with that is I always want to make sure that my opinion offers some sort of positive solution as opposed to simply bashing a point of view I don’t agree with. Most of my topics directly correlate with who I am; a young, black, single, Christian mother and entrepreneur. So the person I write to can be any one or combination of those characteristics.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I write to an imaginary person who wants to know what I’m thinking, the imaginary person who thinks my thoughts are fascinating, if I only I could articulate them well enough to share. It won’t be the same person every time, but I’ve found some wonderful interlocutors along the way that have pushed my thoughts – and now, when I write about certain things, I write for them as well as my imaginary person.

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  6. We are always in continuous struggle with self and often its quite easy to express our self as one model who can be felt and judged without much difficulty. Blogging can be a tremendous exercise or specifically a drill to tame our running adrift thoughts and bring them together into a shape.

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  7. I am now learning to write for the starving crowd. There is famine everywhere because most of us are busy feeding ourselves. We write to broadcast our opinions, not our solutions.

    Just my two small centavos.

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  8. I have been writing, mostly for myself. I am considering writing as part of healing processes, i.e., to let the innermost feeling vent out, so as to relieve from the pressures in my mind.

    I am also writing aiming on the specific person(s), since some feathers of WordPress let us know where the readers are from, and which posts are the most interests for those specific readers. As I feel, blogging at WordPress is like communications with others in a most efficient way – through social media.

    While still working on my writing skills in English (my second language), I am writing in Chinese (my native language) as well. I hope in the near future with gradually improving skills in English writing my writing will be all English.

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  9. i write for lost souls and souls afraid to come out of their comfort zone. I want my reader to say ,hey why am i waiting to start my project, to book my trip, to get engaged in this mission trip, to try this new restaurant i always see on my way home’. these simple things that pass us by because we just wait too long. And more importantly, travel lovers! check my blow http://www.takemeth3re.wordpress.com

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  10. I write to share my insight on the world. I’ve worked in a slew of different industries and I feel that I have a unique, unbiased outlook that the world needs from time to time.

    Ranging from Tech to Fashion to Social/Political issues to Pop Culture & the Media. These are all things I love and want to write about it. Not every article will reach ALL of my Audiences, but one may reach most of them.

    I hate headlines and articles with no validation or authentic source. Instead, I share my worldview through words and text that represent my voice and my opinion.

    I just hope it’s enough to make a difference.

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  11. I do write for my self. But sometimes I am not so sure if my posts or blogs are interesting enough.
    I would like to share my thoughts with others and I can only hope I come up with something that means something to someone, somewhere and write about stuff people can relate to!

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  12. It depends on the topic. For instance, my last post, more or less a passive aggressive attempt at making sense of dating in college. When I was writing I had a few guys and my single friends in mind.
    Another time, I had spent a day with my childhood friends. So I wrote an open letter to them basically.
    I think that generally whatever is on my mind is what I write about and I have someone in mind that it relates to.
    However, I often discover that after I write an entire draft, I think about it from an outsider’s perspective and think, “Why does this even matter?”

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Personally since I started my blog(a first time for me by the way) I write mainly for myself, because its getting expensive to write in notebooks. It’s a way for me to keep track of my thoughts,what I’m going through, that type of thing. But I also hope that I am helping others with my writing.

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  14. I never thought about it that way. It’s easy when you’re just starting to let the opinions of others and the numbers distract you from the joy of writing, let alone with someone in mind. Thanks for the wakeup call. I needed it. 🙂

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  15. I write for myself, I write for my garden projects, I write for my journey, my children and grandchildren (if they are ever interested), I write for those who follow on their journey, I write to plant seeds, I write because I have to.

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  16. Hi there. I have to admit that most of us are just write for ourselves to release our feeling; but also this is an social website, our words will be more meaningful when they are heard by more people. I take your approach and try to write to a American friend to tell some stories about China.

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  17. Thank you you very much for this article, I started writi
    ng blogs in 2011 at the time it was to express my personal feelings on various issues that surrounded me. I hoped that what I write would be of interest to someone. I have not had many people leave comments but looking at the stats I am glad that there are people who stop to read my blogs has encouraged me to continue writing.
    I hope the blogs can translate into a book.

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  18. As for now, I write for me. Eventually I would love to publish entries for others to enjoy. I just don’t want to allow myself to get lost on the internet. Once you know someone is watching you sometimes lose your sense of authenticity. When I write I let my thoughts flow and try to leave emotion on the page for me to come back to and feel later. I don’t want to get so caught up on the reader I lose my voice. But I want to hear other perspectives so I’ll have to conquer this fear of putting myself out there.

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  19. Reblogged this on picklednwyrkr and commented:
    While sitting here in the comfort of my couch on this cloudy Friday afternoon, listening to Dave Matthews’, and thinking of my next blog post, @TheDailyPost just hit me with a curious question: Who is My Reader?

    It is tough to say for now who actually reads my blog as I only started blogging again in January. But to be honest, although impossible, I really would like to think of my posts reaching out to myself from 5 years ago -when I was “fresh of the Boeing” and just started living in New York.

    When I first moved to the city, it was almost as if I was going through puberty all over AGAIN. When the mixed feelings of excitement, awkwardness, cluelessness, curiosity, hope and even helplessness were all but a daily cycle. From finding an apartment, a new circle of friends, a promising job, and the love of my life, Ben…..Now, I am proud to say I believe I have gotten over my New York “puberty” phase and have grown into a proper New York “adult”.

    So for Fiona, the person who have just freshly moved to New York City from far, far away, and to Carrie, who have been a New Yorker for a very long time and would like to just share some thoughts together, I want you both to know: I do write for you. 😉

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