Driving the Bus
By Jim Kuiken
I’ve talked about writing before. It’s an obsession. It’s a curse. When I’m in the groove, words and ideas just jump across the synapse between my brain and the computer screen (wow…just dated myself to myself…I almost said “paper”! How arcane!). When I’m off-track, I can sit and cogitate all day long, and get absolutely nothing written.
Besides the joy and agony of writing…there is one big question that picks at the brain of every writer who is or ever wants to be published.
What if people don’t like what I’m writing? What if everyone hates it? If it gets bad reviews…or worse…no reviews?
Who do I write for? Well, as my oft quoted old southern law instructor said (and yes, if you’ve read any of my blogs, you’re probably getting tired of hearing this)… “it depeyands”.
It’s important to know your audience. But that’s only one factor. It’s important if you’re trying to market a product, blog, book, story, etc. However, if you’re just trying to write, or you need to write (like some poor souls), then we’re back to the same big question.
Who do I write for?
As usual, I’m going to take the long way around the barn on this one…with a couple of brief stories.
When I was a youngster, just trying to break into federal law enforcement (I’d already been local and state law enforcement), I wanted to go into the Border Patrol. However, I was getting long in the tooth (fast approaching 35, the cut-off, back then, to be able to be hired as a federal law enforcement officer/agent), so I had to get in under the wire.
I was lucky enough to get hired as an Immigration Detention Officer (IDO) down in the San Diego Sector, at the San Ysidro Detention Facility. That got me in the system, and I got hired as a Border Patrol Agent about a year later…and turned 35 in the academy – and that is a whole ‘nuther story…
Anyway, as an IDO, one of the many things I had to do was to drive to the various Border Patrol stations in the District, pick up aliens who had been ordered deported or who had accepted a voluntary return (who were from Mexico…anyone from somewhere else had to be flown back to their own country), and drive them down to the Port of Entry, and send them back into Mexico through the port.
This meant that I had to not only drive vans, but had to drive a 72 passenger bus…like a Greyhound bus.
When I was going through the training, I mentioned to my trainer (who was also my boss) about my concern to make sure all my passengers were safe while I was driving them. I was surprised by his response.
He said “forget about them. Don’t think about their safety while you’re driving. Just think of driving safely, like you would as if you were alone in your own car. Thinking about them will only distract you. Just drive, and be safe in your driving, and they’ll all be ok.”
Wow! I had to think on that one a while…but he was absolutely right! When driving, drive for yourself, drive safely and be careful, and it will all turn out alright!
So, back to the question – and yes, I know that was a fairly transparent example, but it’s no less true. When you write, write for yourself. (except of course, if you’re doing technical writing for someone else, etc.) I don’t worry if someone else is going to like my writing or not. I write for me. If others like it, I’m honored (and generally surprised...). If they don’t…eh…
The good thing is that there are about 325.7 million people in the United States, approximately 1.2 billion English speaking people in the world (if you target English readers), and approximately 7.7 billion people in the world…so I’m sure you’ll find at least some folks will like your writing! And lots who won’t.
If they do, great! If they don’t, so what? As long as you like your writing, you’re doing it right!
If you’re trying to sell it…that’s a completely different discussion. See the list of some of my writing and publishing tips in the link above about where “I’ve talked about writing before”.
Don’t worry if you hit one of those points where you just stare at the (paper or) computer, and nothing happens. It happens all the time to the best of us.
And if you just really don’t know where to start, I can help you with that as well…