Friday, March 29, 2013

Finding or Creating an Audience, or Who's Going To Read This, Anyway?

If your writer-in-hiding is anything like mine, he will start with, “What's the point of writing this?” and continue with something like:
  • “I already know everything I would write.”
  • "I just told you everything I would write."
  • “Writing it down would just be repeating what I just said.”
  • “Weren't you there when it happened/I read the book/did the research? Didn't we just finish talking about it?”
  • “Who's going to read this, anyway? No one!”
Um, well. He does have a point.

Okay, so my child has had an eventful day, read and liked the book, seen and hated the musical, learned the material, understood the topic, thought about the issue. Everyone who needs to know about this—that is to say, he and I—already knows. If writing is about communication, in his mind that box has already been checked. If it's about proving he knows something, there are lots of ways to demonstrate his understanding besides writing. The same goes for analysis, comparison, description—not only that, but the process of writing may distract from the other cognitive tasks demanded by the assignment. Which is actually not the issue here, but still important.

So. For a lot of writing, there has to be an audience wider than the two of us. (Or for the thirty-two of you, if you're a schoolteacher or parent of a kid in school.) Someone who wasn't there, and to whom he must commununicate through writing alone.  Suddenly, the imperative and the motivation to provide clarity and completeness becomes more immediate. 

I have even folded the audience into the revision process. Because they weren't me, they noticed missing information that I did not. Because they weren't me, they responded, asked for, and got more details, more background information, more clarity--without eliciting resentment (it was not a Teacherly Suggestion for revision, it was a genuine request for clearer communication).

Trusted friend? Relative? The public? Younger children? You and your child are the best judge of whom you child can write for. My own son was only lukewarm about blogging—he enjoyed seeing his words on a web page, but he didn't want anyone else to read it. But he was okay with Auntie Joan reading his opinion of Bi-Rite Creamery, and with Uncle Matt reading his piece about Boba Fett.

So here it is:
the beginning of a list of projects with built-in audiences:
Thank you letters 
Plain old letters—to grandma, for example
Instructions on how to take care of the cat/dog for the petsitter
Letters of complaint
Letters of praise
Fan mail
Personal blogs
books or stories as presents for younger children
something to be published in a peer anthology
A piece of writing that an older friend will see
Contests (maybe)
Submissions to magazines for and by children
Amazon reviews
Google or Yahoo reviews
Yelp reviews
IMDB reviews
Submissions to local newspapers
See if your local library or independent bookstore will publish or post a book review
See if you local toy store will publish a list of your child's suggestions.

Anything else? Please add it to the list.

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