Sam Radford

March 22, 2021

An audience of one

Who am I writing for? Does it matter if anyone else reads what I write?

These questions came to mind when I stumbled across the words below from the poet Amanda Gorman. They’re from a recent interview in the New York Times

Being an artist is about how and why you touch people’s lives, even if it’s one person. Even if that’s yourself, in the process of art-making. (Emphasis mine.)

I find this empowering and freeing in equal measure! And all the more profound for coming from the mouth of one so young.

It made me reflect on the words I write here, that you may or may not be reading.

What am I trying to accomplish? Would it be enough if the only person changed by my words was me?

There’s no denying that I want my words to be helpful to others; I always hope my writing is touching people’s lives. But do I need others to be reading my words? No.

Here’s the truth: first and foremost I am writing to and for myself. I write because I want to reflect on something. Or explore my thoughts on a topic. Or I’m writing to challenge myself. Or I’m holding myself accountable by sharing something publicly.

In other words, I write because I enjoy writing!

It reminds me of something William Zinsser wrote in his brilliant book On Writing Well:

You are writing primarily to please yourself, and if you go about it with enjoyment you will also entertain the readers who are worth writing for.

And that’s the way it has to be. Otherwise you come across as desperate to impress. And we all see through the people doing that. Being needy isn’t a good look on anyone. 

When our primary audience is an audience of one – and that audience is enough – that is the pathway to a place of true creative freedom. It’s also an authentic place. And it is that authenticity that can make our art relevant to a much wider audience. 

If we enjoy what we create, there‘s a good chance someone else will too.