Who Do I Write For?
I have had a half-baked post in my brain, about summer and time warp, there since Julie and I did a morning meandering down dirt roads a couple of weeks ago. But I haven’t been able to get it beyond the half-baked stage into something worth publishing, even though I jotted down notes in one of the many notebooks I purchased as incubators for those great ideas that aren’t fully developed and to jot down important things I need to remember – if only I could remember in which notebook I committed the ideas that used to be so important.
A few nights ago I lay back on my pillow with Kooser’s The Poetry Home Repair Manual and reread a few pages. I was reading from the perspective of writing for my blog and had to stop after he asked who my reader is, as I couldn’t answer. My professional career involved reams of technical writing and I always knew who my reader would be – students, faculty, accreditation personnel, administrators. It was also very clear what my purpose for writing was. But with creative writing I am never sure who would want to read a post about summer and time warp, and even worst I’m not sure why I should even write it – so I fluffed my pillow and decided to sleep on the questions of readers and purpose. But the morning light didn’t bring answers.
I knew, however, that I wanted to write about how disoriented I felt on a middle of July morning as we stopped to take photos along gravel roads. As I spent time walking around, with camera in hand, I felt the full-summer morning spreading out around me. The trees are a dark green that is vibrant, full of the activity of producing oxygen as it cleans the air of hydrogen. It is quieter on a country mid-summer morning. The birds have finished their noisy mating rituals and now all I hear are a few twitters as birds quietly tell each other the important news of the day. This gentleness is broken by the distant piercing call of a crow, pleasant only because it is familiar and a part of summer landscape. It is my hunch that the crow is calling the corn to grow into harvest time. Occasionally I hear the soft hum or clicking of insects, but when the temp heats up later in the afternoon, summer is filled with the high-pitched buzzing of the cicada. And at each stop we feel the sun a little hotter on our skin, in competition with the cool breeze that is lingering from the nighttime.
When did this summer happen? Why was I experiencing this time warp? My brain holds 70 years of experiences of the joy and freedom of green Julys – against the backdrop of experiencing the exertion and confinement of living in winter. My senses understand the subtle and not so subtle changes that take place as this part of the earth transitions between seasons but this year I missed the transition from spring to summer.
My time-warp was because of a two-week cold with a touch of bronchitis. I felt the cold symptoms disappear on day 14 but the debilitating fibromyalgia fatigue stretched on for another two weeks. I didn’t have symptoms of illness but I would stand up to do something, walk out of the room I was in, and sit down in the next room. As I checked e-mails I would nod off, so I went to bed for a four hour nap in the middle of the day, sometimes almost merging with a late afternoon hour of sleep. I would sit on my purple porch swing, looking over my garden, thinking about the work I didn’t have the energy to do. Maybe it was mental fog that kept me from recognizing the transition between the spring blooms that needed dead-heading and the blossoms of early summer. I was so absorbed by my fatigue that I missed the passing of spring.
I know why summer surprised me, but I am still thinking about why I write and post photographs and who I imagine my reader to be. Sometimes I write something political with the purpose of formulating and expressing my thinking and maybe of influencing my readers’ thinking. It’s the same reason I talk with friends about current events; to validate my perception of what is going on around me, to experience the comradery of having shared beliefs or experiences, or to share alternative ways of thinking and influence others.
Most of the time, however, I write to share my past and present experiences of living, my experiences of pleasure and pain. Kooser writes that people who say that they write for themselves instead of an audience are wrong. I agree somewhat, because if I wrote just for myself I would never post and I would burn all my journals. I do write for the joy I get from finding the words to express what is going on within me, I write for myself to sort out my feelings and to heal. I know that I do it to heal because when I go back to those earlier writings, I recognize that I am reading from a new and healthier perspective. Sometimes I cry as I read the pain and courage of very difficult days in past years. But there is also a joy that comes from finding words written long ago that describe love and friendship, beauty and goodness. I experience a pleasure of recognition and the thrill of enjoying words I carefully selected to express who I was, who I am.
I also write for others. I write because I want someone else to know what I am thinking and who I am. I write so we can connect, so I don’t feel isolated. When you read what I write I am hoping you will recognize a bit of your own experience and we can find a thread of our shared humanity. I feel good when you click the “like” button because it tells me that on some level you enjoyed what I shared or it resonated with you. I feel even better when you write comments about how that thread of shared humanity gently tugged at you, and you share a piece of your story. I look forward to these shared moments after I do a post. It is also why I enjoy reading what others write and post. I especially enjoy responding about a memory your post pulled up in me or the excitement of new thoughts that your words triggered.
Most of us have never met but we can connect through my words so maybe I don’t have to be able to visualize your face for you to be my reader because I know you exist. We have become a web of pen-pals and we need each other to make our world a beautiful place to live.