Occasionally I receive emails about this site. The vast majority are written by kind and considerate people. Some are just to say “thanks” and others are pointing out errors. I appreciate both and make it a priority to respond and hopefully address the issues. I like well considered comments from smart people.
Then there are those few that take exception with my opinion or style. Most come from fake or temporary email accounts of cowards and are very passionate about being assess. If I reply, I usually conclude with “I don’t write for you”.
My dirty little secret is that I don’t write for 99.99% of the readers that visit this site each month.1 I write for less than 10 people. I write for people I know and sometimes have never communicated with. I put them inside my head and imagine their perspective and bias. I write for people I like and sometimes disagree with.
The Journal Draft
When I write an article I consciously choose one person to write for, me. I write my first draft as a journal entry. I write for a future version of myself that may be dumber or busier or lazier than I am right now.2 The writing is informal and in my everyday voice. The organization and layout mirrors my thought process.
A first draft is almost always confusing, sarcastic, vulgar and funny. It’s almost always my favorite draft to write.
The Second, Third, Fourth…
When I decide that I want to publish an article, I start my revisions with a new audience in mind but I do not write for general consumption. I write each revision for a different person. This will be awkward to say, but when I rewrite a technical account, I write for Dr. Drang, Clark Goble or Brett Terpstra. When I write an opinion piece, I write for Shawn Blanc , Marco Arment or John Gruber. When I write meaningful and personal prose, I write for my family, Kurt Vonnegut or Merlin Mann3.
I don’t write for people that I agree with or that I want to gain favor with. I write for people smarter than me with higher standards than me. I look at each thought and sentence and imagine them cringing, laughing or ridiculing me. I write for people that have values I admire so that I can shoot for something beyond my own.
Linked articles are different. My links are siphoned out of Instapaper and Pinboard. I already have a journal of links I like. I post them here for other people. I post science links for my casual science-y friends like Walton Jones or Seth Brown. I post my beer related links for my pals like Ken Weingold and Julia Richert. There’s always an audience I have in mind but it is very specific.4
While it’s unlikely I write for you, it is highly plausible that I write for someone you can identify with. At the very least, I try to write for someone you can respect.
I am not a writer. I write. I do not write to “create art”. I write to satisfy my own frailties as a confused, insecure, ego-centric human. ↩︎
I have accepted that my trajectory is on the downward arc in almost every sense. Now’s the time to enjoy the potential energy I’ve built. ↩︎
Sorry to be creepy. ↩︎
You know what these awesome people have in common? I know them because of this site. At one time I did not write for them. Now I do. ↩︎