One of the reasons I decided to pursue a novel was to create something expressly for myself. It’s a common aphorism to tell writers to write what they’d like to read. We all use writing as a vehicle to say what we want to say. For me there’s also an element of not having to hold back emotionally, intellectually, or politically. That’s not to say that the book is any of those things, to the extreme. It’s more that I don’t have to worry about second guessing my audience, asking whether they will be offended.
“I’m just an individual who doesn’t feel that I need to have somebody qualify my work in any particular way. I’m working for me.”
– David Bowie
There’s something in the culture right now that makes me more worried about not offending the reader than pleasing them. If you’re on the left, at this moment you’re probably casting a glance at people on the right. If you’re on the right, you’re staring the those on the left. Everyone’s guilty, though. All sides look for reasons to clutch their pearls and pull out the fainting couch, while simultaneously calling everyone else a snowflake for doing the same. Please, make it stop.
Second Guessing My Audience
This past week I was read for filth by a reader for using a word they didn’t know. It’s a common word, not only within my day job publishing niche but out in the broader world. Living in an international community where most of my friends has English as a second or third language, I’m used to explaining slang terms, colloquialisms, and various expressions. This was, apparently, a native English speaker though. When I come across a word I don’t know, I look it up. I use critical thinking to suss out the meaning from context. As a last resort I’ll try to ask an intelligent question.
Not here in 2020, though. I was the asshole for using a term and then not clearly defining it. The onus for their understanding was entirely on me. While I accept that writers have a duty to communicate clearly, that only extends so far. No one can account for the level of education, lived experience, and diligence in the reader.
Which brings us back around to writing for myself. I don’t want to constantly have that reader in the back of my head, compelling me to dumb things down so they get it. There’s no worry that someone will get mad because I made them have to work a little to understand what I’m saying. There’s a freedom in not just saying what I want to say, but doing so in the way I want to say it.