Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Who do you write for?

Hi Everyone! My name is Liz Groeneveld, and I'm delighted to be joining the regular cast of H & E contributors!

Becoming a contributor to a blog is a new thing for me. And, I find that it's raising all kinds of questions. How do I want to frame my voice? How do I write about academia in a personal way? How do I walk the line of writing on a personal level without veering into overly confessional self-disclosures?  Who am I writing for? Who do I want to read this? Who will read this?

These kinds of questions aren't new ones; they've been asked on H & E before. For feminist-academic types working in Women's and Gender Studies (WGS), particularly, these questions around voice, writing, and audience come up frequently in the work that we do.

An example: this semester, I have the great pleasure of teaching a fourth-year Honours capstone course in Women's Studies. It's the companion class for students writing Honours theses. The course is meant to help students find their critical voices, to provoke exactly the kinds of questions about their writing that I'm now having about my own.

One recent class discussion reminded me that, when I wrote my fourth-year undergraduate thesis (way back in the last century), I had an imagined reader in mind. My imagined reader motivated me to keep writing and to style my writing in a way that I thought was relatively clear and accessible. My imagined reader was my mom.

For that project, my mom was an ideal imaged reader. Imagining her reading the thesis motivated me to write and--above all--to finish the project because, as I tell my students and as others have said before me, the best thesis is a finished thesis.

Addendum: my mom did read my thesis. As I recall it, her response was something like "Thanks for sharing that. I couldn't really make head or tail of it."

There can be a gap between our imagined reader(s) and our actual reader(s). Is this some kind of failure? Hardly. Did having an imagined reader motivate me? Yes. Did I finish the project? Yes.

We never really know who will pick up our work or read our blog posts. We never really know how our work will translate to others.

So, why am I writing for Hook and Eye? Who is this writing for? It's for me. And for you.

Who do you write for? Are they real, imagined, or somewhere in between?



1 comment:

  1. I appreciate this post, but have not responded until now because I needed to think about it for a bit. I have to admit that one of the best bits of advice I had ever gotten about writing was to think of my audience. I, however, still am not sure who I position as my audience. I constantly have to remind myself to both write so that people who have expertise in the area in which I write will not be able to poke too many holes in my argument, and yet also write so that the work is accessible to people who are not experts in the field. And writing a seminar for a grad course is vastly different from writing an article for publication. Switching modes is becoming smoother these days, but I still sometimes slip up and write in an essay format when I should be writing in a seminar/conference paper format. I think thanks to this post I will be thinking about my audience every time I write something, at least for the next few weeks :)

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