Who exactly are we writing for?
When watching journalist Giles Coren’s programme on how to eat to live longer, one thing he said really stuck in my mind. Whilst speaking of his late father, the satirist Alan Coren, Giles explained that on the day his column was printed, his dad would call him up to say how much a certain joke or phrase had amused him. The journalist paused at this point, obviously full of emotion, before declaring that now his father was gone there wasn’t much point in writing any more, because he only ever did it to make his dad laugh.
This very personal insight touched a nerve in me. I could sympathise with the man’s dilemma. Although the books and articles we produce may be read by hundreds, or even thousands of people, I can honestly admit that I usually only have one or two readers in mind when I write.
It may not be the same person on each occasion, often it depends on what I’m writing about. I certainly don’t consider a ‘mass audience’ when I begin a new story or article. In some cases, I will simply be telling a tale that appeals to me on some level, I then just cross my fingers and pray that others will like it too.
I hope that Giles does keep on putting pen to paper, he certainly succeeds in making me laugh, and many others as well. But I think that he has highlighted an important reason why many authors and journalists get started in the first place. For many writers, there was that one special person who they wanted to impress, or make proud of them. In many cases, this solo audience will remain forever private to them. It just so happens that the rest of us get the benefit of their work too.