The Importance of Focusing on the Reader

Renowned stupidity expert, Walter B. Pitkin, author of A Short Introduction to the History of Human Stupidity (Simon & Schuster, 1932), estimated that four out of five people are not very bright when it comes to common sense and ordinary living (that’’s over four billion people today). I’d like to say I’m a bit more optimistic. I’d like to, but I can’t. As Mr. Pitkin asked and replied, “Can we find as many intelligent acts as stupid ones in any given period or region? No.”

I’m afraid I’ve fallen into that “four out of five” category. But my bouts thankfully affected no one but myself. For instance, I visited the local college student store to buy books for a friend. I noticed students milling about, wearing lost and frustrated expressions, miserably unable to find what they searched for. I, genius that I am, immediately located what I needed and made my way to the cashier. I climbed up two flights of stairs to purchase the books, while contemplating my brilliance.

“It’s wonderful to be smart!” I announced to no one in particular. I reached one arm over the opposite shoulder and proceeded to pat myself resoundingly on the back. As I patted away, I looked down and admired my very chic sandals; I picked up speed, taking two steps at a time. I felt exceptionally nimble and athletic while I sucked in my stomach. (Insert theme from Chariots of Fire here). All was splendid. Then …I fell flat…on my face, onto the hard concrete stairs. What is the likelihood of falling while walking up the stairs? 100% when thinking and acting like an idiot.

I can’t write when stuck in that moronic frame of mind because I grow blind. I lose sight of the reader, of the story, and the big picture, and think only of myself. “This scene will work because I say it will. Plus, look how beautifully it’s written.”

I take moments out when writing to ask, “Who am I writing this for?” It’s okay to write for myself, but so much better to think of others. The writing road is already a lonely one. It’s like baking a lemon meringue pie and eating it all yourself. Boring. And fattening. But when it’s shared and enjoyed by all, it’s like a party, fun and less predictable. Plus, you’re more apt to eat just the right amount. Once I took myself out of the picture, writing became more enjoyable, more creative, I hope, in the quest to tell a story that someone else would want to be a part of. Isn’t that why we write?

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8 years ago

All I can say is thank you.

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