Saturday, December 29, 2007

A Reader In Mind

“At the time of writing, I don’t write for my friends or myself, either; I write for it, for the pleasure of it."
--Eudora Welty

A very common piece of advice about writing is to have a particular single reader in mind. I always feel a little anxious when I'm reminded of that advice, because that's not how my mind seems to work "at the time of writing" as Eudora Welty says. It's like I go into this impossible space without a speaker or an audience. It's totally selfish and internal, and I lose any awareness of other people. Sometimes it's so powerfully absorbing that it's like I'm just witnessing what is happening.

This quote above from Welty comes closest to describing what it's like, and coming across this was a relief from the sense that I was going against the conventional wisdom. It validated my experience.

I asked my friend with more experience writing and publishing about this and he advised me to keep a particular single reader in mind during the re-write process, as opposed to when I'm drafting. That seemed to make sense, but so far I haven't done that either, which probably indicates again how much of my re-writing is really a form of finishing the drafting. Perhaps when I get to a step where it's more about shaping and polishing rather than developing, then that common advice will come in handy.

It's Saturday today and I came to my desk to work on my draft, but I didn't. Something about disciplining myself to work at certain times makes it unlikely for me to do extra work at different times, and that's OK.

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