Whether you’re a professional writer, an enthusiastic amateur or a part-time Facebook grammar Nazi status updater, you might have heard this piece of advice before:
Write for one person.
But what does that mean?
To me it simply means don’t try and please everyone. If you try and write anything—whether a tweet or a novel—taking into account everyone on earth’s prejudices, hang-ups and personal biases you’d write NOTHING. Because anything you express is going to upset somebody. Defo.
Take last night as an example.
Last night there was an earthquake in Melbourne. But maybe not to someone from New Zealand? Compared to what those guys have been through in the past couple of years the earth moving in South-Eastern Oz would probably only qualify as a ‘tremor’.
So even in choosing one word to describe an event that literally shook my house I have a choice to make: to write for those who will ‘get it’ or be scared into pedantic ramblings by the thought of possibly offending some others.
It felt like an earthquake to me.
On my Twitter feed, immediately after the MelbourneEarthquake (some reports have it at 5.2 on the Richter scale), I read funny posts about how everyone thought something weird had just happened—but ONLY to them. Tweet after tweet (and Facebook update after Facebook update) proved how tentative we can be in assuming our experience is another’s.
“Did anyone else just feel something strange?”
That kind of thing.
While some people think nothing of thinking (and writing) for others, people like me (maybe you too) don’t like rushing to conclusions about how another is experiencing this world. But often that’s exactly what we do when we write: we describe our experience for another hoping they have had a similar experience. We write as if we KNOW what another is feeling; as much as we write to share wild imaginings, we write to connect and share experience.
Maybe not everyone would get my Tweet but I hoped at least one person would. Even if my ‘ideal reader’ (as Stephen King calls his perfect ‘one person’) was sitting next to me on the couch, surfing Facebook on our iPad.
And whether the one person I write for is my wife, my Kiwi friend in London (who Re-Tweeted that last tweet), some imagined hybrid of both (?), or me, maybe at least one of us will ‘get it’.
Hopefully a few more too.