Monday, April 29, 2019

Blogging ~ Who Is My Audience?

Of course that is the question...In the early days of my blog, sometimes I wondered why I continued to write it.   One of the first questions I had as I began to write was: Do I write for an audience? I concluded that this was a question that did not have just one answer.  

As I sorted through why I started this blog, I came up with reasons. Here are some of them.

Writing for Writing’s Sake

I have always enjoyed writing and have kept various types of journals over the years. I kept sporadic journals when my children were small as an attempt to just try and keep some sort of record of what life was like during that period of my life. I didn't really have an audience in mind when I kept those journals, but they were often more than just some sort of daily log of experiences. 


I wish I had been more disciplined in my journal attempts during those days because now, I do have an audience for what I wrote during those busy, hectic times: myself and possibly my children. 

Many young moms began blogging when I began blogging. They created fabulous blogs full of wonderful pictures of their children. They were pretty blogs filled with flowers and flowing designs. They represented the technological gifts that this generation of moms have developed. I envied these young moms and their blogs because they will have a precious record of their lives with their children. What a gift and a blessing. What I wouldn't give to have the same type of archive of my children’s' activities when they were young.  I often wondered if these moms were clear on the audience they were writing for.  Were they writing to leave a record?  Were they writing for other moms?  Were they writing for parents living far from where they lived?

Writing for An Audience

When one writes, the audience does not always present itself immediately. We write because we have a need to record our lives. We write to express our dreams, our needs, our disappointments, our heartbreak, our insights, or even as a means of trying to make sense out of what is going on around us. Writing is intensely personal, and for that reason, we are sometimes hesitant to put down our most intimate thoughts and emotions on paper because we fear an unknown or known audience. Audience can intimidate us and cause us not to write or not to write well. 

When I reflect back on the time I was teaching high school English, I now see I might have confused my students when I taught about audience and writing. I would tell my students that they did not need to consider audience when they wrote in their journals. In fact, I encouraged them not to think about the reader while writing. I told them that they were just to write. They did not have to worry about punctuation or spelling or any other grammatical rules as they wrote in their journals. I just wanted them to feel free to write without being intimidated by feeling that they must write perfectly if they were to write at all. I told them to focus on developing voice. 

Many of my students would write stunning journal entries. They would amaze me with the uniqueness of their individual voices. I would get glimpses into their true selves through their journal writing. Sometimes, I would be heartbroken by what they had to share. Sometimes I would be alarmed. Always, I was grateful that they trusted me enough to write transparently and honestly when they knew I would read what they wrote. I was their audience, and they trusted me enough to write honestly. 

Other times, when the students had a writing assignment, I would teach about audience. I would remind them that they should consider their audience when they wrote. Unfortunately, many times, these formal writings lacked an ability to touch any type of audience. They became stilted, boring, and seemed to only represent some sort of stylized writing that came about from trying to follow the form style writing that they had been taught in previous years of schooling. This writing would lack life. It might be perfectly representative of a five-paragraph essay, but it lacked true meaning. The concept of writing for an audience was difficult for many students to grasp.

Can We Ever Fully Anticipate How Our Writing Will Impact Our Readers When We Sit Down to Write?

When I was teaching, my father became very ill and was hospitalized just days before he died. He was hospitalized just as my teaching quarter was ending before Spring Break.  Just before I left to drive to his bedside, my students took a quarterly essay test that had to be graded before I could leave town. 

On that test, my students had to respond to Li-Young Lee's poem, "The Grandfather." Their audience was:  me - their teacher. Their purpose was: they wrote to get a grade. They clearly understood their audience and purpose.

Interestingly, after all the responses were read, the grades were assigned, and I had left my role as teacher to drive to my father's bedside to become a daughter who only had a few more days to spend with her father, I found that my focus as an audience who had read assigned poetry responses shifted. I found myself recalling the poem, and even more importantly, I recalled the responses my students had shared with me about the poem in their responses on the test. 

Their words began to comfort me. They gave me strength. They allowed me to peacefully surrender myself to the moment I found myself in at my father’s bedside. I saw these last moments with him in a new way as I reflected on all my students said about “The Grandfather,” and about the poem itself.

 I realized the power of the written word in a unique way. The freshness of my students' youthful responses that spoke of the value of caring for the elderly grandfather while treasuring his final stories spoke to me. I will never forget how comforting my students’ words about the last days with a grandfather were to me. Neither my students nor myself had any idea how those words would be remembered by the reader who first read them as a teacher and remembered them later as a grieving daughter sitting by her father’s bedside as he lived his last few days.

Why I Chose to Write A Blog Even When I Was Unsure of An Audience

Blogs that are successful, seems to require audience. One would not continue to blog very long if one did not have some sort of audience. In the beginning days of blogging when I first began this blog, one of the beauties of the blogging was the ability to have a place where one could post something that could generate an immediate response if it was read by anyone at all.

When I first began the blog, for months it seemed the jury was still out on how long the blog would last. I was not sure of the benefit of the blog except for serving as a place where I could create a bit of a history of what was going on in my life at the moment. 

I was newly retired. I struggled with my new status at times. I missed the academic life, and yet I was also happy to leave the daily demands of it behind. I missed my students. I missed the interaction. I missed my audience. That is one thing a teacher always has - an audience. As I used to say, "Just give me a stage!" 

But, I also thought that my classroom was a place where we were all learning together. I liked to think that I created a more generative, constructivist type of classroom. It wasn't just like the classrooms where I went to school. I always hoped to create a classroom that was interactive and interesting. 

Certainly, if a blog is going to be successful, it must be all of those things too. I have loved blogging.  I have decided to make a shift in my blogging experience.  This shift will occur next month when a new blog is launched.  

In the meantime, I am gathering ideas to inform my blogging experience.  This is new territory for me, but so was blogging when I first began writing.  One thing is for sure, I am learning all kinds of new things about writing, about audience, and about what goes into blogging in 2019.  Things have changed since 2008!  That is for sure.

11 comments:

  1. I have been part of your audience for years now, Sally, and feel that through it, and through our wonderful years on Vashon Island, we both have grown as writers and as friends, not just to each other, but to many others on this journey. Sending you lots of love, dear friend. :-)

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  2. writing meets a need for me to find my voice, give meaning to my experiences, heal, share, preserve history and vent!

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  3. I, also, have been part of your audience for many years. I always feel that you were meant to write! I shall be interested to see the format of your new Blog. I started blogging in October 2010. For the first couple of years, I wrote almost daily. If find that hard to believe now. In those early years, there was far more interaction. I only write occasionally now, and, even then, I wonder why I bother! I wish you good luck with your new venture.


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  4. I've followed you for several years, Sally, and I have loved your perspective. When I started, I was drawn by the blog's title: RETIRED English Teacher. Because that's where I was headed myself :) And finally, I am, too! I so understand your need to evolve and change your blog's focus. For ten years my blog was a book review blog--and now that I'm finding my way in retirement, I, too, have felt the constraints of the niche I started with--so I'm trying to take the plunge and blog more about my life. I have SO APPRECIATED your honesty and vulnerability, Sally, and I look forward to your new direction!

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  5. I am glad to be a part of your audience whenever and where ever you are writing.

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  6. It will be interesting to see where you take us with your new blog. Have enjoyed this one.

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  7. Like many others who have commented here, I have followed you for many years now and have appreciated both your honest and thoughtful writing and your ability to be real. Life isn't always easy or simple and sometimes when you see a blog it all looks a little too perfect. But what I find with you is both the joy and gratitude of life and family and an honesty and introspection that is very valuable. I learn from you. My blog began with the idea of being an art blog and then I realized I didn't want that; I wanted more. I wanted to share what I wanted to, regardless of topic. I knew that the right audience would find me and I wouldn't worry about finding them. Meanwhile, I would write and photograph and share. Of course, I didn't have to deal with advertising sponsors like many bloggers do so it could be me. I do have my other blog which no one comes to -- and that's OK. Sometimes someone finds it. Mostly not. And that's OK too! I look forward to what comes next and I love that you continue to grow

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  8. I have read your blog for years and have enjoyed the experience greatly. I live in the San Luis Valley not too far away from where you live I am a reader of blogs but not a blogger myself. I too will follow you in your new venture but hope you'll continue to share your perspective on things you currently write abt.

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  9. Oh it sounds interesting! I can't wait to see what your new blog will be about. I enjoy your writing and you always give me something to think about, so I do feel as if I'm always learning from you...and sometimes, perhaps, with you.

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  10. I always say I'm very big with a very small number of creative Grannies in the US, UK & Canada! When I started my new travel blog I was uncertain whether my audience would move with me or whether I would find a new audience. The other transition was moving from Blogger to WP which rudely gives a non-smiling face when the writing does not conform for SEO results. What is still lovely is, that whilst I may have a broader audience now, they read without comment, my long term Blogger buddies still faithfully leave lovely encouraging messages and whilst we all might be writing for ourselves, that feedback always puts joy in your day!
    Happy blogging!
    Wren x

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  11. You and I started blogging about the same time. I started out just to keep friends and family apprised of our doings since we were moving from Illinois to Hawaii. Eventually though, my audience changed a little. Now my audience comprises of friends in cyberspace and a number of people in Hawaii. I've also become more private because my children were a little concerned about my sharing to too many people. So my blog is invisible to the web crawler and can only be accessed through other bloggers or if someone has my web address. My children have also asked me to not put the faces of my grandchildren online.

    I have been so blessed to have you in my cyber family, Sally. I have learned and are learning so much from you. I'll be here waiting to see how your blogging evolves into another phase.

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