Writing to an Unquantifiable Audience

When I was in school, we were taught to always write with the assumption that the reader knew nothing about what we were writing about. It was expected in our essays and our exams.

As a result, I’ve always sought to write with as many clarifications as I see fit. It’s just how I was trained.

I recently started teaching writing at work, and today was fun. I was working with a little boy who was in the process of revising his essay. I had been told by the teacher who had worked with him in his previous hour that he needed to flesh out a few more details in the essay.

It didn’t take me long to see what she meant. I told him to pretend that I as his audience knew nothing about his topic. It did actually help sharpen up some of his language. By the time it was all over, my other writing student and I were in gales of laughter as the boy tried to revise his essay to paint a better picture. (At one point, the other writing student drew a piucture of what the boy was describing so he could see why I kept asking for more details.)

I started wondering after I got home tonight if I really do that anymore. So often, it seems like I’m just writing to be done with whatever I’m writing. That’s just stupid. I love to write. I’ve been writing for as long as anyone can remember. I continue to write, and to take on more writing challenges, because I enjoy it so much. The dance of the pencil across the paper. Watching words appear almost magically. Rereading old pieces, disbelieving that the author’s voice is my own.

I really ought to take this as a wake-up call to be more mindful in my writing endeavors, to keep them pleasurable instead of a chore.

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