Thinking About Writing and Audience…

Well, this little weekly blog is now a part of my story. It’s a very small part and it is usually pretty sanitized for public consumption. Somewhere along the way I realized that I’ve never really thought about HOW I pick the words that I share with you though.

“Who cares?” is the first question that I imagine popped into your head when you read that. It is the question I would have been thinking if you’d have written the first paragraph.

Well, I didn’t… until recently.

I regularly get letters, notes, e-mails and such from friends and colleagues. I normally get the impression that they are impromptu. Yet, as I consider my writing, I bet a lot more effort goes into these “personal” bits of writing than I ever see.

When writing to friends and family members, I realized that I have never written anything in just one draft. I wondered if that makes me weird. I read those “letters of note” websites and every letter on there is handwritten and error free. It’s like I’m the only one in the world who can’t put a complete thought together without thinking it through a half-dozen times. Handwriting a letter, for me, takes the better part of a legal pad and a good measure of ink.

As a result of all this thinking, I started reading personal communications a little more critically. Not just my writing, also the writing I receive. Not critical to find fault, but to consider word choice and usage; also to consider what might be left out or perhaps edited out and why.

As I was writing an e-mail to a friend this week I did something that I found interesting. Every time I deleted something from the e-mail I copied the deleted bit to a new file and made a quick note about why I was deleting it. I learned two things. I delete A LOT and there is always a pretty good reason for doing so.

I am terrible about writing a complete first draft before editing. I will probably force myself to practice this in the future but it bothers me to know that there are things I don’t like in the paragraph above or two pages ago. In the e-mail I mentioned above, I was responding to a story the friend had told me about their childhood and I began to tell my story. I realized my story was self-aggrandizing, perhaps even arrogant, and would likely come across as obnoxious. I deleted 475 words. Like I said, obnoxious. If that story ever needs to be told to my friend, I’ll tell it another time and in an appropriate context. In the e-mail I really wanted to show appreciation for my friend sharing and to communicate gratitude. I felt a lot better about the product without my story cluttering things up.

I wish I could remember who wrote it, but I read that an author said, “All writing is about the author, anyone who says otherwise is either a fool or lying”, or something close to that. I didn’t write it down. I’m not sure that I agree, which probably makes me a fool because I really am being honest here. All writing is about someone and sometimes it’s the author, but just as often it’s about the reader.

I think what makes a good writer is someone who knows the difference. It’s the person who know’s how to pick the right words to communicate what is necessary in the moment.

I am still not always sure how I pick the words I do but thinking about it hasn’t made me worse at writing. It may seem like a small thing but I think considering the small things will pay dividends in the long run. Sometimes we should indeed “sweat the small stuff”. What do you think?

3 thoughts on “Thinking About Writing and Audience…

  1. Amy

    But do you think choosing words carefully is really a small thing? I think it may be one of the biggest things. If you stick it in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, good communication probably has some influence on the physiological and definitely on all the others. We’re really all social butterflies, even the introverts 😉

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