Knowing Your Audience

Your Audience-Pyragraph

Photo by JD Hancock.

I was talking with a good friend recently, and the topic of books came up. He told me he didn’t really like to read, and as a matter of fact he doesn’t really enjoy writing either. This friend, who is very smart, simply considers writing to be a chore—a task which he has no choice in doing and has to complete from time to time.

Of all the things I do in my life, I find writing to be one of the most enjoyable. It’s challenging, it’s fun, it’s entertaining. It’s difficult in some ways, yet quite easy in others. I take ideas, and I express them. I doubt I have more experiences to express than any other person, but for some reason I perhaps have a stronger desire to express them.

Some of these expressions are solely for my own benefit. I write down ideas for stories, I keep journals, I write down funny quotes from other people. Some expressions are for public consumption, such as this blog post or zines that I write and sell to complete strangers. Of course, some expressions are directly to another person, such as emails and letters. Yes, letters! I write and mail out several letters a week. I love the postal service and use it as much as I can!

Good writing is exciting in and of itself, regardless of topic.

In fact, once a month I send out a mass mailing. What started as a way to keep in touch with friends and family has steadily grown over the years to also include people I’ve never met. Writing for such a variety of people has provided me with an excellent monthly challenge. When I write certain zines, I cater them to certain audiences: pinball culture, zine culture, punk culture, and with my personal journals, I can say anything I want, with no censorship at all.

But my newsletter? My grandma reads that. My mom as well. So, not only does my monthly newsletter give me a very regular routine and deadline, it also forces me to clean up my writing every now and then. All topics must be family friendly, and all wording must be PG-13! At first, this was quite the challenge for me, especially as a self-proclaimed potty-mouthed pervert. But often times, writers become overly reliant on adult language and X-rated situations. They use the built-in extremity of sex, drugs or violence to fuel their story. But good writing is exciting in and of itself, regardless of topic.

I am a writer with many personalities. This used to cause confusion in my writing life, but gradually I’ve learned when to use which voice. I never limit my writing. I simply channel it into all the right avenues. You want to write a story about a crazy night of heroin use and wild sex? There’s a place for that. You want to write a contemplative piece about gardening? There’s a place for that as well. Knowing what you want to write and knowing who might read it are equally important. Don’t shy away from certain audiences any more than you’d shy away from certain topics. Write it all!

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About Billy McCall

Billy has been writing and self-publishing since middle school, and isn’t about to stop now. His main realm of expertise is zines, but he has also written for various magazines and newspapers over the years, published one novel, and even writes the occasional song. Currently he is living in New Mexico with his dog and two type-writers. He considers hand-written letters to be the highest form of flattery.

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