Why You Should Write for One Person
Creating something is really difficult. You’d want as many people to enjoy it, right? But having that thought in the back of your mind can slow you down. It’ll freeze you where you stand.
That’s because it’s impossible to entertain everyone. You can’t expect everyone to like your work if you don’t even like every article you’ve read or song you’ve heard.
But I realize this mindset can still make the anxiety linger. So here’s another way to think about it.
When doing something creative, think about one person. In his book On Writing, Stephen King shared how novels are really just letters to one person. Every author should have a single ideal reader. For King, his first reader is his wife, Tabitha.
Other professionals have used this approach too. Fix You by Coldplay was written by Chris Martin for Gwyneth Paltrow after her father passed away. Maya Angelou published an entire book called Letters to My Daughter.
The Mona Lisa was reportedly commissioned by a rich Italian merchant wanting a portrait of his wife in their new home. I’d like to think that Leonardo da Vinci never intended the painting to be worthy of international visits or cake-smearing. He painted it for a single person.
When you focus on one person, you’ll find that what benefits them could benefit others too. The essayist Michel de Montaigne references this in a way when he wrote that “every man has within himself the entire human condition.”
It’s why when you watch a movie that you enjoyed, you recommend it to others. Since it resonated with you, you feel that it could resonate with others as well. So when you create something, think of who might benefit from it the most.
My ideal reader changes depending on what I’m writing about. At work, when I’m writing about, say, computers or cryptocurrency, I think of someone old like my grandparents. This allows me to keep my writing simple and explanations straightforward.
When I’m writing about productivity, I think about one of my friends who have trouble keeping up with their tasks. This helps me remember to have empathy and convey a sense of reassurance that they’ll get through it.
The creative process becomes much easier, and the work more fulfilling, when you aim what you’re making at a single person. It’s much easier to speak to one person than it is to an auditorium, after all.
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