The Dream Reader: For Whom Do I Write?

(Photo by David Fleming)

(Photo by David Fleming)

It is rare for me to sit blankly at a keyboard. Usually, my fingers are flying before my brain knows where it is going, but the fourth assignment of Blogging 101 is difficult: who is the person I most want to read my work? That is a highly personal question, which is daunting for this newbie blogger.

Before I can determine for whom I am writing, I should review why I’m writing:

1)  Without an audience, I won’t edit.

2) Interaction with other bloggers is stimulating.

3) The journalist in me enjoys chronicling my experiences.

Candor forces me to own up to a fourth reason for writing: the cringe-worthy goal of wanting to impress my readers–with my eloquence, my insight, my wit, my relevance.  Despicable but true. Who are the people I’m trying to impress most–my would-be “dream readers”?  Beloved authors, respected teachers, and my parents and siblings come to mind. (My sweet husband needs no impressing.) Old friends aren’t far down the list. I want new acquaintances to think well of me, too (that means you, fellow bloggers).  What about my children: surely I covet their good opinion?

At my sister’s wedding, I accompanied my other sisters on the 2nd movement of J. S. Bach’s “Concerto for Two Violins”  (David Bibeault Photography)

Initially, I enjoy the rush of pleasure that comes with a compliment about my writing. The pleasure is very fleeting, though, and is usually followed by awkwardness, particularly if the compliment is paid in person.  During my college days, I felt the same sense of strained happiness after a solo performance on the piano: I wanted people to applaud my efforts, but, oh, how uncomfortable it was to accept the longed-for praise. I remember well that slightly intoxicated feeling of standing at the reception after a recital, feeling pleased and embarrassed and guilty all at the same time.

Typically, my own impressions of my performance were so blurred that the compliments (or lack thereof) were useful as a way of gauging how the performance had gone. Back then, after the recital hour was over, my piano solos lived only in memory. (Here you can read a poem I wrote in college about the ephemeral nature of music.) Today, the student musician’s experience is vastly different: thanks to camcorders and iPhones, virtually every performance is not only recorded these days but also shared via social media. Two of my performances were recorded on audiocassette; despite my limitations as a pianist, I am glad to have those recordings.  But, in the days before video recording was de rigueur, the audience’s reception of a performance was the sole critique. Audience feedback matters tremendously with writing, too, but an essay–ah, an essay can be re-read and edited endlessly. It can live on indefinitely.

View from the overlook at the small college I attended

View from the overlook at the small college I attended

It can be gratifying to stumble upon something that I wrote years ago and to realize that it was good work. But there is a far better reason for writing than to impress others or even to achieve a sense of satisfaction: to give concrete form to an idea–to give birth to a brainchild, as it were.  When I’m writing something, I become like Jo March of Little Women, scribbling in her garret as “genius” burns. After my thoughts have been transferred lucidly to my laptop,  I feel relief.  Yes, I want to connect with others. Yes, writing has the power to change policy, to change ideas, to change people. But, in the final analysis, the person for whom I truly write is myself. I am my own dream reader.

 

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A side-view of Orchard House and its garret, photographed by my son Samuel

Although Miss Alcott did write her most famous book at Orchard House, she, unlike Jo, did not do her writing in the attic.

Although Miss Alcott wrote her most famous book at Orchard House, she–unlike the fictional Jo–did not confine herself to the attic when writing.

What a cop-out, huh? Back in the nineties, I used to watch “Beverly Hills 90210,” surprising though that may seem. I am reminded of an episode in the fifth season in which Kelly has to choose between traveling with Dylan or marrying Brandon. Kelly chooses–drum roll, please–herself. It was the typical TV resolution-that-is-not-a-resolution-at-all. After nearly a season of dramatic tension, she chose herself? (At least I get to be Jenny Garth in this scenario: I’ve always wondered how it felt to be a blonde.) Fear not: I shall force myself to choose someone–or some group of people–from the categories laid out in my third paragraph and write a post to that person.  A famous writer? a teacher? parents? siblings? Who will it be? Stay tuned.

 

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10 thoughts on “The Dream Reader: For Whom Do I Write?

  1. I think your honest answer of “myself” is an excellent one. I agree. I can tell that I write for myself because I love to read what I’ve just written, before anyone else has seen it. I enjoy reading things I write that no one ever reads. It seems silly and vain to me, but there it is. In fiction, I also thoroughly enjoy creating a place, a community, a series of events. I love all that, so I write for that pleasure. I have often thought too about how different music is from writing. It’s fleeting as breath. I have one recording of my sophomore recital, but it’s on a cassette tape, and I haven’t heard it in years.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have the same feeling after I have completed a post, a feeling of relief. It is like you have this creation in your head and it has to come out and after it does there is relief and bit of a let down. I would say I write to express whatever is in me and think I hope I am writing as my authentic self. But then there is the side of me that wants to appeal to others and the addictive quality of those darn ” likes.” I like the way you described performing in a piano recital. And how it is all a blur afterward and you had to rely on others to tell you if it was good. Kind of like writing.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Writing is like any other creative urge: it cries out to be fulfilled. I was just thinking that preparing a special meal, which you described in your post about the New Year, is similarly creative. On another topic, last night I went to my daughter’s solo violin recital, and, of course, I recorded it: but–even though she played beautifully–she says she doesn’t want to see the recording afterwards. This struck me as ironic, in light of my post. Sometimes blurred memories help you to forget the tiny details that weren’t perfect.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think not wanting to see or hear your performance afterward is feeling it will not be as good as you hoped and that we are too self-critical as well. I thought about the cooking comparison too. After I have been cooking all day I often ask others if it is good because at that point I feel like I can’t tell.

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