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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. The lack of comments on my blog, although they are ‘liked’, does concern me. I feel I’m not truly connecting with what people want to read. This bothers me and I’ve sought out countless ‘How to blog’ advice. In the end though, I write because – 1. I like to write 2. I NEED to write 3. Writing helps me cope with life. Along the way, I hope others read and relate.

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    1. I know exactly what you mean – my target audience is mainly my friends and occasionally they’ll comment and I’ll feel super-loved but most often than not, they won’t. I’ve disabled the ‘like’ option because I think it’s a bit of a cop out to be honest but I’m still relatively new so what do I know?

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      1. I didn’t know you could disable the like button. I’m not sure I’d want to. If I don’t have a like button it won’t get any feedback what-so-ever. At least I know they like it. I just wish I also knew their thoughts on it too

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  2. Although I do want to lots of people to read and share what I have to say – I think I predominantly write to express my feelings dealing with a child who has a chronic illness. My writing is therapy for the world to see / read! 😉

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  3. I just started a new blog not long ago and I write to share my love for holistic health. I fell off the bandwagon of living my life to its optimal level, so now I’m ready to jump back on. I’m writing my experiences with my husband…we are hoping to inspire others to a healthier lifestyle whilst also enjoying our love for writing.

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  4. I write for me , myself, and I. I figure if someone deems to like it, awesome; but it doesn’t bother me to think my writing may end up only being for me and fall into obscurity.
    If anyone else were to come to mind for me, it would be someone years away, that thinks and feels as I do. I would hope, that even in obscurity, just one
    person could stumble upon my inner musings, and maybe, for a sentence or two, feel less alone and isolated in the world. That’s who and what I write for, Me first and foremost; an unknown someone in the future.

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  5. I write first with my friends and family in mind, who know me, but may have not known some of the things I’m doing and seeing recently because many loved ones, live thousands of km. away from me even though they too live in Canada. So blogging is almost like writing a story-telling letter to them.

    At a 2nd second level, I’m writing from my corner as a Canadian to an international audience, who experiences things others may have not. That’s why some of the stuff is on local history, local culture and local art where I’ve travelled, but hopefully interesting trivia.

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    1. Am I writing just for myself? Well, only to make positive meaningful connection with others. I am writing for others because I don’t write strictly in a daily journal format. That would be too repetitive in style and boring to read!!

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  6. I write or journal to myself about life, day, and how God is working in my life thru faith. Especially now I need to go back and see things in perspective. 🙂

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  7. I would like to say if I completely and selfishly wrote about my cycling every single day..my mileage and same old thing, over and over: I doubt very much I would attract a broad diverse regular readership (and commenters) some who are cyclists and some who aren’t. Who on earth would want to read my blog as a cycling training journal? I have to respect my readers’ precious time–they got other stuff going on in their lives.

    That’s fine by me. So definitely I don’t write exclusively for cyclists: too narrow as a long term strategy.

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  8. That cleared some air, mostly I wrote everything I thought thinking of my close ones reading and thinking how would they react to it, or what will be there thoughts on it, but now I am thinking of switching from one person to other for different topics that I ll write about depending upon the nature of the person I am thinking of while writing it. 😀

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  9. I write for the beauty lovers, the fashion interests, the people who want to know about me and the people who struggle with things like depression and anxiety, by writing about my own anxiety and experiences, but I think in a way, I’m just writing to help myself

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  10. I write to challenge myself to come out of my shell, to write not in my first language. And I am happy that in the process I get to entertain some readers 🙂

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  11. I write for myself mostly. To get the ideas, thoughts, and emotions out of my head. Otherwise, they spin around and drive me crazy! True story: I delete my drafts about 90% of the time because I don’t think that people will enjoy or understand them.

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  12. I write for the city I grew up in, Miami, FL. I see that the black community needs so much help but there was not one source you could go to for information, black history, and hope. There are several organizations here doing good work for the black community but not much information on what they do and how it can help is sometimes unknown. Since we are in the internet age, I wanted a site that black people could come to and feel , informed and encouraged.

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  13. I write for the millions of homes and families and rescues and vets that Desperately need this info. Much of modern dog training methods are based in Excitement, in short many dogs then become “excitement junkies” And this is just down-right opposed to what Mother Nature and the mom and dad dog would naturally teach their pups. Calmness is the one link that lets all canine society (wild or domestic) live together. Check us out at http://www.thecaninecalmer.wordpress.com

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  14. When I write I do so not for one person in mind but an imagined community of people with some affinity with my subject area. ‘The man on the Clapham Omnibus’

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  15. My blog is written for: 1- me. 2- people with interests similar to mine. 3- friends and family who might want to know where we and what we are doing. 4- strangers who might want to join the “full-time living in an RV” adventure. and also for 5- people who know they will never join the adventure, but wish they could.

    My blog . . when I figure out how to work it . . (i am just starting to blog and just starting the 30 day challenge) . . will be a place that I can store my thoughts, memories, and ideas until I have time to think more about them and possibly organize them.

    My blog is for all the people, who after meeting us and hearing a tiny snippet of our lives, have said, “You should write a book about your travels and adventures!”

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  16. Excellent post and advice Cheri. When I first became a radio DJ I was terrified to crack the mic because I knew I was going to be talking to hundreds of thousands of people at the same time. It bugged me out, but a very wise friend (and fellow DJ at the time) told me to pretend I was talking to JUST ONE PERSON and I would do just fine…he was right. Our readers are diverse and so are their tastes. Not everything we write and post will resonate with every one of our individual readers. You cannot please everyone all of the time. If you keep your voice true and you speak (write) your mind, just like Mohamed and his mountain…they will come…

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  17. I write for the fans of Football, writing an honest report, with an hint of opinion. I hope that one day I can have many people looking forward to reading my insight in to the sport they love. Also I write for myself – I have a dream, whether I achieve that dream or not is irrelevant. What matters is that I am working hard to achieve that dream: resulting in me bettering myself, as long as I keep dreaming I keep becoming a better person.

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  18. I write to express myself even though sometimes i may not be able to get my point through or i might have grmmer mistakes but i still countinue writting beacause it clears my mind and what is more peacefull than a clear mind ?

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  19. This was the most touching post of WordPress to me right now. I like to promote the best of live now amongst us, states of wieuws, news about the shift from gas and oil. It’s hard to stay alive. So I thank internet, MS,Google,FB,Tw,Li and WordPress to give me the oppertunity to Try to keep all as alive as possible. Who reads my Blog? They stay on their bible to belelieve. So I will have to go on. Blogging is dull, to react is free information, living in debt is investing in future?
    Sarah may I built your house Righ Now?

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