Monday, May 17, 2010

To That Most Intimate of Strangers

So many times an author starts, “I write because . . .” Despite the esoterica that follow, the question seems almost hackneyed. I’d rather ask, “To whom do you write?” For if we truly answer that, will we not also find the reason why, seen though a different lens?

Tens of thousands of older Americans would write their memoirs. Nines of thousands will never publish a single page. Yet still they write from within the autumn of their lives, hoping that their words will live beyond them, bring who they are and what they’ve been to others. Most say it’s for their kids.

We write for those whose feet have followed other trails. With them we share our wonders seen or devastations, the joys we felt – our agonies. From sharing comes an inner warmth, a sense of felt community.

We also write to those who’ve wandered down the same life paths as we, encountered those self-same brambles, borne the scars of flesh or psyches torn. “You’re not alone,” our stories offer them.

And as for me, I write to you, my reader – my most intimate of strangers. I don’t even know you but I will assume our intimacy for now. For if we are bound that closely I cannot lie to you, and that will keep me grounded. The stories that I tell must then be true.

I must assume a bond of trust for we are going exploring, you and I. In my words, and in-between my words we’ll seek out unknown places. I’ll capture wisps and freeze them in a lattice work of words. Then, tremulously, for they reflect my secret self, I’ll hold them out to you.

To Whom do you write? And Why?


  1. Thanks for this post Jerry. This is a great question to ask. I find it helpful when I sit down to write to keep this question in my mind. I know why I write and what I write, but thinking of who I am writing to really helps me narrow my focus and make my words flow more smoothly.

  2. Shaylen, Nice comment. I also think it focuses the mind a little differently. In my case, by visualizing a reader, even a collective of readers, my voice tends to speak more directly, as though I know them. Cuts out the BS and the tangential wanderings.

  3. Well thank you for writing for me :-)

    I do visualise my reader, because it creates a conversation.

  4. Interesting question. I think I write for me. I'm well versed in writing principles and always keep in mind whether I'm entertaining the reader. But I have learned those techniques by observing what works on me and what I take pleasure in reading. So I write for the me that loves to enjoy a story.

  5. Hey, DWC, maybe we all, in the secrecy of our inner hearts, write for ourselves. But, it strikes me as such an empty exercise unless there is a Reader out there, a kindred soul, a finger tip to touch across the ethers.