An Audience of One?

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“Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.” ~ Cyril Connolly.

Dr. Tanya continues her Blogging Insights series by offering the above quote for our consideration.

Does Stephen King have no self because he wants to sell books? I take issue with this “all or nothing” approach to writing. You can write the fiction you enjoy while still keeping an eye on what might attract an audience. And what about nonfiction writers? They’re writing for the public because it’s their job. If a journalist reports a story of a fireman rescuing a kitty from a tree, does his self disappear? Does a biographer have no self because she’s been paid to profile a famous person? Do textbook authors have no self? That’s ridiculous.

Again, there’s this notion of one type of writing being “better” than another simply by virtue of its authenticity as opposed to the quality of writing. Pour out your heart in a diary full of ungrammatical gibberish that no one will read and receive a gold star from Cyril for “writing for yourself.” I disagree that this output is superior to keeping an audience in mind when we write. Most of us proofread and edit our work because we would like our potential readers to be able to easily understand our ideas. This is a good thing!

All my public writing is for myself because no one is paying me to write; however, I want to be read, so I am simultaneously writing for the public. I try to express myself clearly because I have an audience in mind, and I include images to generate interest. If I were writing solely for myself, I wouldn’t bother with images, nor would I care about other people’s privacy and feelings. What we don’t say is often more important that what we do say. Self-censorship is part of being an adult, whether we’re writing or doing any other thing.

©️2023 Paula Light and Light Motifs II. No unauthorized use permitted.

24 responses to “An Audience of One?

  1. I agree! All writing is personal and is varied as each individual.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sense of audience undeniably influences writing, however, so this person is probably considering a very pure idea of “self” that does not have to consider writing for any particular audience need or expectation. I’d guess Cyril sees any adjustment in information, tone, style, whatevs to suit a specific audience as a deviation from what the writer would express independently without these concerns. Probably a huge Dickinson fan too. He’d hate the classes I teach.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What we don’t say is often more important that what we do say.

    I’m laughing because that’s been my theme today. Not saying what I could say, while feeling my jaw clamp ever more tightly shut.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Writing is personal, but we do write to be read.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree that I’m not a fan of this contrast either. There are definitely areas of gray; there’s very little writing that I do with no intent for anyone else to ever read, and even a bit of that is transformed into a poem or blog post that I eventually share 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I earned my living — and it was a pretty good living — writing. NONE of it was fiction or at least not intentionally fictional. Sometimes, when you are writing about something that doesn’t yet exist you may discover it was all in the mind of the engineer. Oops.

    There’s nothing wrong with writing material that informs, instructs, even teaches. There’s nothing soul destroying in telling (!!) the truth!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I think this applies more to blogging, but you have a valid point here Paula.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Maybe the author means that a writer and his writing can get stuck because of the public. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle got sick of Sherlock Holmes, but the public demanded that he keep writing about him. The same with Agatha Christie and her character, Hercule Poirot. And when Stephen King changed genres, his readers weren’t too happy.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I really appreciate your views about self censorship, and I think this applies to conversation as well as writing.

    With regard to images and editing – I do those for myself too. I enjoy finding and editing images that I use. I enjoy a clean, ‘typo free’ piece of writing for my own self too.

    Liked by 1 person

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