Faith seeking understanding #060: Writing for an audience vs. writing for myself

Faith seeking understanding, my personal journey towards a deeper knowledge of and intimacy with God, the cosmos, humanity and myself through thoughts, words and (occasionally) images, is a series of [hopefully] daily reflections I’m writing with the purpose of publishing something on a regular basis for others to read, either here, at joncarllewis.com or among my writings at Medium.com.

Photo by Jan Kahánek on Unsplash.

Over the past hour, I’ve written more than 1500 words which I never intend to see the light of day. These are not those words, but I couldn’t have written these without them. I didn’t write anything particularly shameful, or even secret. I was simply writing in a mode different and distinct from the mode I need to be in to write for publication. None of it was wasted. None of it was gratuitous. And none of it was fit for anyone’s eyes but mine (and, possibly, my biographer). And that’s perfectly alright.

You see, I was having trouble coming up with something to write tonight—and not for lack of material—I have plenty of things to talk about, but first I needed to spend some time with myself getting my ideas straight and dealing with myself with a level of frankness that might not be of interest to anybody but me (and, possibly, my biographer).

I’ve mentioned this dynamic previously, but for the past few weeks I thought I could ignore the fact that I need to spend time writing for myself, writing to myself as well as writing for an audience. Again, there might be nothing shameful or secret about what I need to process—although, at times, there could be—but there is a particular attitude one brings to the act of writing for oneself that is different from the attitude one needs to communicate with, even entertain, the world.

I wish I could put my finger on exactly what the difference is, but it is akin to the difference between praying out loud in public and praying in secret. Both can be equally earnest, equally heart-felt, but there is something about public prayer that must consider the edification of the other. Private prayer only requires honesty. Elegance is not required and might even get in the way of being authentic, even raw. Public prayer can certainly be authentic, and can sound quite down to earth, but the fact that there are other people listening can incline one to an artifice cleverly disguised in earthy affect. Or maybe this is just my experience. Perhaps there are others for whom their private expressions more nearly match their public ones.

But for me they are different. And they have different ends.

Writing in my journal is very much like silent contemplation. The focus is on noticing what is going on. There is the dynamic of searching for the right word or metaphor to describe the experience, but it need not be a word or metaphor intelligible to anyone but the self. One can speak one’s own, private language, known only to oneself and God—and that is perfectly okay.

Writing for publication is much more like conversation. At least it is for me. One can spend time noticing what is going on inside oneself, but one must also notice what is going on with one’s conversation partner—or it’s not a conversation, it’s a monologue. To do it well, one must ask the question over and over again, “Does this make sense to the other? Do I think I am getting through?”

When possible, one can pause and ask for feedback, or, when writing alone, one can pause and try to imagine what response one might have aroused in the heart and mind of the other.

So those are my thoughts on the subject. I could go on, but it is at this point that I’d like to know what your thoughts are on this. When you write for yourself, is it different from writing for others, or are you more consistent than I am? Do you journal as well as write for an audience, and how is that different for you—if at all? I’d like to know.

And one of the reasons I love this medium is the fact that the conversation can continue in the comments below. I look forward to hearing your side of the conversation.

Thank you for your time and attention.
I’d love to know your thoughts on what you’ve read.
Please comment, below, or email me at joncarllewis@gmail.com.
May God richly bless you on your journey.

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Faith seeking understanding #060: Writing for an audience vs. writing for myself

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