Writer's First Rule
It is ironic that I am writing this as my first post; and, even more ironic that I have a monstrous case of writer’s block as I write it. However, it may also be the best time to talk about it.
It doesn’t matter what we write or how well we write it if our intended audience has no desire to read it. Writing is communication. We write to give guidance, to give orders in some cases, but to relay information and ideas—always! However, if that information is not understood by the receiver, then the act of writing fails to do what it was meant to do.
'Writer's First Rule'
"always write for your audience"
The length of a piece of writing is determined by the purpose and the idea. In many cases, a simple text message on our phone, an email, or a letter is enough to pass along the information. Sometimes those ideas need a lot of support or explanation, which is one of the reasons we have books. Even works of fiction contain some moral message or ideology which under-lies the entertaining story. The key with writing fiction is to engage the reader with the story so the message is automatically assimilated. Telling someone the message, or messages, behind a story is far less effective than letting them discover it themselves. It’s also a lot less fun.
For years I wrote blog posts that were mostly anecdotal in nature. Telling stories about my own successes and failures allowed readers to connect with me. It let them know I was human and fallible. It also allowed them to accept those same mistakes in themselves, if they chose to. I did not force them to look at their own failures and tell them how to correct them. Getting to the heart of a problem might seem like a good way to get information across, but it is rarely accepted with open arms. It is human nature to defend our position, especially when we are wrong it seems.
To Kill a Writer's Voice
I started university 18 months ago; where, I am working on a degree in creative writing; that is, an English degree with a creative writing focus. However, the first couple of years are filled with learning the rules of good writing. Part of which, also seems to be learning to use big words that no one has ever seen or heard of, but I digress.
And this is where the problem began. I had become so concerned with the grammar, the mechanics, and the pretentious nature of academic writing, I forgot to write for my reader. So when I was faced with a paper where I had to write to a general audience, I failed miserably in the attempt. The mechanics of the paper were excellent, they managed to get me a passing grade, but the paper itself lacked the ‘appropriate voice.’
In school, we all must write to an audience of one—the teacher. However, that does not mean we talk to the teacher specifically; but, we write in the way the teacher has asked. In my case, that was a general audience. Which, by default, means less pretentious words, like ‘pretentious’ ironically, and generally at a grade 8 general level. I did not do that, and my mark reflected my failure to meet the guidelines of the essay.
It also taught me something else. NEVER Forget the 'Writer's First Rule.'
Now my confidence is shot, and I’ve developed an irrational fear of writing the next essay, afraid that I will fail again. This blog entry, in some ways, is an attempt to reconnect with what I know to be right, and work my confidence back up to write that next paper before its due.
The moral of the story, never forget the ‘Writer’s First Rule—always write for your audience.’