Reader in the Room

How much do you consider your reader?

There are those who will tell you that if the answer is not at all, you run the risk of creating something self indulgent, myopic, too dense, too vague, too general, or too utterly pointless to interest another human being.

I think this is harsh and only half true.

If I had a boss, or an editor, or a magazine, or client waiting, I certainly would think about the reader, as there is a specific someone I am meant to please. For this blog, as well, I definitely consider the reader: what he comes for, and whether he found it.

But for my other kinds of work—essays, fiction—the reader doesn’t enter my mind until well along.

Essays are about sorting it out, getting it right. And the same is true for stories of any length. And there is so much to get right, from the heavy lifting to the nuance. It’s as if from this lifeless piece of quarried stone, one’s mission is to lift the Pieta and set it on a pedestal, pure and dust free.

Do I think about the reader as I chip away at stone? Not until the spit and polish stage.

I will think about him then—that busy person looking for value—and grow feverish. Somehow, I’ve produced something I didn’t expect, not a Michelangelo at all, and I will hope he will like it.