Stephen King uses the concept of the “Ideal Reader” in his book On Writing. While he was giving advice specifically for writers, this is a useful device to use for living in general.
An Ideal Reader is the person you write for. This is the one person you most want to impress with your work. Ironically, the Ideal Reader is preferably a real person, and not an imaginary ideal. His Ideal Reader was his wife, Tabitha.
Who is your Ideal Reader? Who do you want most to impress with the way you live your life or write your blog?
Why the “Ideal Reader” concept works
This concept makes sense because you cannot write for a vague ‘everybody’ – there is no such person or persons. On the other hand, no writer writes for just himself, else he would simply journal and not bother making his writing public.
With regard to living in general, many of us may also have an Ideal Reader. For example, some people have God as their Ideal Reader. This is the person they live to please, whose approval they seek. For others, the Ideal Reader may be a parent, or spouse, or peer group.
Your Ideal Reader may be you
On the other side of the fence, some say that a writer just writes what he has to write. According to this view, the writer has ideas and values in his heart that he simply needs to express, addressed to no one in particular. If his writing is any good, the audience will find him.
In the same vein, you may choose to live life for yourself and no one else. You are your own Ideal Reader, and live to please no one except yourself.
Too many Ideal Readers?
Lately I’ve struggled with writing this blog because I’m not sure who exactly I’m writing for – who my Ideal Reader is. I think there are four groups that I’m trying to please at the moment, and each post targets a different group so it’s all an eclectic mix right now.
1. Sometimes I write for the people who find this blog through a search engine. These people don’t know me and don’t care to. They’re just after specific information, and may click an advertisement on their way through. The How to Find Happiness series, for example, was written for search engines and got me to page 2 of search results for those keywords.
2. The other group I write for are my regular readers. They are important to me because they leave comments and let me know that someone out there is reading this stuff I write. For this group of highly evolved beings seeking self-actualisation, I wrote How to Write A Personal Creed which I’m happy to say made the rounds in the personal development blogging niche.
3. There are specific people in my life whose opinions and approval I care about. I don’t talk about the blog much with them since our relationship is outside this blog. Still, they may find this on their own and if they do, I would like them to like it. Parallel Universes was written for one such person.
4. Finally, I write for me. If I write something that I can’t feel proud of, I will delete the draft. If writing a post does not challenge myself to be a better person, I don’t see the point of writing it. I wrote Let Go of Expectations as a reminder to myself on how to live my relationships.
Do you find this concept useful?
When I remembered Stephen King’s advice on writing, I realised that I need to decide who my Ideal Reader is. Only then will this blog have a focus and a mission.