Who Do We Write For? (Project Thankful: Reason #231)

A question recently came up in class: who do we write for?  Do we start off writing for ourselves, without an audience in mind?  Or, do we start off with an audience in mind?

I’m studying Composition Theory as part of one of my classes to help me with the duties of being a Teaching Assistant (TA); namely, approaching student writing and talking about the writing process with students.  One of the readings the teacher assigned us was Peter Elbow’s piece, “Closing My Eyes as I Speak” where he talks about “writer-based prose” versus “reader-based prose” in regards to audience.  The teacher opened up the discussion to the class, asking us about our own writing processes and if we write with or without an audience in mind.

One student raised their hand, saying “I do have to write with an audience in mind because that raises the bar for my writing.”

Another student raised their hand: “I’m the total opposite.  I write as discovery, not having an audience in mind.  My writing is my discovery process, it’s for me and it’s for me to share with others.”

The first student responded, “Yeah, but if you’re just writing for yourself, isn’t that just like masturbation?” *Uncomfortable laughter from class* “No, I mean, you’re just writing for your own pleasure, not necessarily for anyone else.”

For me with this blog, my writing has taken on a transformative quality since the inception of this blog.  At first, I was writing for others, trying to draw people’s attention to my writing at the time.  Yet, my writing itself changed as my identity as a writer changed as well as the genre of writing I am interested in.  Today, I view this blog as a blog of self-discovery, an archive of the changes that have taken place along the way.

So, who do we write for?  Do we write for ourselves, as some form of discovery process, or do we write for others?  And how does that impact the quality and content of our writing?