Writing for Self vs. Audience

Who do you write for? I don’t mean which publication, company or special interest group. I mean who is your audience? Is it you or is it comprised of various types of people?

My audience varies. I have written copy for newsletters, new business proposals, white papers, case studies and print ads. Also, I wrote for the student newspaper, the Western Herald, at Western Michigan University (WMU) while earning my degree there. The content I produce is tailored to the interests as well as the knowledge of the audience. It has always been important — to me — to write with the end objective in mind. What do I want my writing to achieve for my employer and/or for myself? Do I want my response to a Request For Proposal (RFP) to get my employer to the next round in contract negotiations for new business? Was that investigative piece I wrote in college going to help other students call out shady landlords and also motivate my own to fix my leaky roof?

I take a different approach with my creative writing. Usually, I write about whatever comes to mind. Earlier this week, I read a post, It Was the Day the Pumpkin Appeared on the Chair, about freewriting. That post took me back to junior high, high school and college where freewriting was a practice taught in English class. The purpose of such an exercise is not really to think too much about what is coming out on a page. The purpose is just to take an idea and write. So, in this case, I write for myself. Sometimes I find snippets from these writings that can be used in a blog post or even  for professional purposes. But, other times, these writings are not to be shared with an audience just yet.

The premise for this post came from two sources. One was from a new blogging friend from The Tattered Thread. His post, The Power of Community, talks about how much impact social media has on the content online writers produce. I admit, it influences my posts. I look at my site stats regularly to assess which posts garner comments, likes and followers.

A second source was a post, An Artist’s Palete at Jane in Progress, a blog by experienced television writer, Jane Espenson. I appreciate how she considers herself to be a part of the audience she writes for. This viewpoint helps me feel more confident about the appeal my own stories will generate when I am ready to write and share them. If I’m not loving what I create, how can I expect you to?

Good People, Good Neighbors

I am a lifelong suburbanite of Detroit. With the exception of my college years, I have called this place one hour north of the “D”, home. Despite thoughts about skipping town for something more exciting in say San Diego or Turino, Italy, I can’t turn away.

The draw is more than world-class sports teams, superb shopping, exceptional restaurants, Stony Creek Metro Park, beautiful shorelines, scenic bike paths and cultural opportunities. The one reason I stay rooted here is the people.

While growing up in Rochester, I was fortunate to reside in a neighborhood where splendid friendships were forged swapping stickers and Tiger Beat magazines, pretending to be Charlie’s Angels, hanging out at the Rochester Cider Mill after school, or skating on a common ice rink in the middle of someone’s veggie garden.

I now live in a Shelby Township neighborhood that boasts the company of good, caring people. In addition to sharing dog and child sitting duties, a number are runners and fitness enthusiasts. I love how we all encourage each other to run those 5ks, attend boot camps training sessions and give Zumba a try. Plus, the bus stop just wouldn’t be the same without the exchange of parenting tips, recipes, and style ideas.

The love my neighbors have with one another is rare and irreplaceable. One plows the sidewalks so that school children are safe walking to the bus stop, another hosts an annual holiday open house to encourage fellowship, a third organized a meal plan for a family experiencing the loss of a spouse and mother, and a fourth is rallying all of us to save the life of a child.

I am in very good company, indeed. And, I don’t want to leave.

Living in the Moment

A few weeks ago, I watched Piers Morgan interview Oprah on CNN. One of the most engaging, memorable sound bites was when Oprah talked about living in the moment. She talked about being able to thoroughly enjoy the dialogue with Morgan because she was focused specifically on life in that particular moment; not about the past and not about the future. Oprah identified living in the moment as one of her greatest life achievements.

I have been thinking about this portion of the interview for some time. Living in the moment is an ability to aspire to. But, is this a reality anyone can really achieve? Can anyone truly filter out — completely — all past reflections and forward thinking while doing something else at any given moment, consistently?

As I write this post, I am living in the moment; focused on the topic at hand. I am also listening to Foo Fighters and thinking about making my daughter’s lunch for school in 30 minutes.

But, I believe Oprah’s challenge was to savor each living moment we have; because our past is just that; and the future is unknown. Anything could happen. The irony of my reflections is that a girlfriend and I discussed this very issue just a few nights after the Morgan-Oprah interview. It was Janurary 15 and we had attended a Pistons’ game with our husbands. We were nicely surprised to witness a win against the Sacramento Kings. As we drove home from Auburn Hills, the roads were slushy and snow flurried across the windshield. It was a cold, dark night. All of us expressed how anxious we were for spring. My girlfriend agreed, but noted we were wishing our lives away. By thinking forward to March and April were not allowing ourselves to truly enjoy what we had that evening.

She was so right. The fun, cozy night began with a delicious Mexican meal at Miguel’s Catina in Rochester, Mich. Our good times continued with coffee at Caribou and then the Pistons’ game with fantastic seats in Section 102, Row E complements of a charitable organization I made a donation to in November. The four of us had it all; and we still do even in arctic-like Shelby Township, Mich.

Seven, Silent Monsters

I have seven, silent, but ever-present monsters prowling around in my head. Winter blahs, cabin fever, parental stresses, unrealistic expectations, inner negative talk, ever-growing to-do list, and time thief, are “The Seven”. For a lack of a better term for these negatives, I call them monsters. They remain silent because until now, I have not given any outward indication to their existence.

“The Seven”, however, have drawn swords, and are challenging me to a fierce battle this winter. I am motivated to fight and banish these silent monsters. Ignoring them is not my style. Giving into their negative energy is not an option. I refuse to encourage them toward a more public presence.

By nature, I am an optimistic, extrovert, who enjoys social occasions and people. It is foreign to identify a struggle with “The Seven.” Acknowledgement — I believe — is the first step to winning these solitary, inter-connected wars. Next, is to fight.

Upper cut to the winter blahs. No more thumbing a nose at snow, arctic cold, and limited daylight. I will take Zumba classes, ice skate, and run indoors until frogs croak Spring’s arrival.

Box it out to cool cabin fever. Stirring a little crazy is just what I need to break out for good times with family and friends. Ann Arbor is on my list for the next two weekends.

Front kick parental stresses. My faith prevails. I am ready for whatever is on deck. My ability to love, nurture, teach, inspire, learn and discipline strengthens every day.

Knock out unrealistic expectations. Spotless and always-organized are not realistic daily goals for my house, which is home to four active people and a lovable, playful dog. There will be days — in the near and distant future — when performance please me, but not you. So be it.

Round kick inner negative talk. Body types, genetics and past experiences brought on by school mishaps, social challenges and stupid choices cannot be undone. I learn valuable lessons from living life and from others. I will cheer loudly for positive thoughts.

This fight is nearly won. I am sweating. Are you? I saved the most notorious confrontations for last. One is with ever-growing to-do list and the last is with time thief.

Swipe a blade to that ever-growing to-do list. My concentration is on action items already occupying PDA space. Child care, academic success, professional development, volunteerism, household chores, pet care, family relations, friendship development, social calendar, marital bliss and new acquaintances are just a cliff-note version of what my responsibilities include. When does it stop? Does it ever?

Fast feet catch time thief. Set the clock for me. I am taking time to read books, spend time with family and friends, volunteer, strengthen spirituality, pursue hobbies, develop professional ambitions, pamper my body, watch quality entertainment, and listen to good music.

What a match-up. The adrenaline is pumping through my veins. I feel better already. Do you see any monsters? I don’t right now. But, seeing some green along with a dose of Spring-like temps wouldn’t hurt, either.