So, I’m getting back to blogging after quite a hiatus. The next assignment in Blogging101 is to identify my audience. When I first saw this six months ago, I thought it was a no brainer, but after some reflection and additional reading, today I’m more curious about the validity of this assignment.
I’ve always wanted to be able to write well. Be able to tell a story that people remember. I work as a District Ranger for the US Forest Service. One of the challenges that we face as an Agency is remaining relevant and supported by the American Public. Millions of people visit their National Forests and Grasslands every year. Many people don’t realize or understand the difference between National Forests and National Parks. Does that matter? I don’t know and maybe putting this down in writing will help me decide. But one thing is certain. I want to be able to write (and write well) about the things that I love and am passionate about.
A couple of years ago, I talked with our public affairs office about publishing a monthly blog or column in the local newspaper. The first thing they asked me was “who is your audience?” At the time, I didn’t put much thought into it and answered, “the locals.” So I wrote a small piece on what we had going on out on the forest. It included some timber cutting to remove fuels, cattle grazing, and I threw in a message about hunting safety. I think it went over pretty well. I got some feedback about it. At the same time, I didn’t feel it was what I wanted to say, so I gave it up. I decided it was best to leave the writing to the professionals and I will focus on doing good things for the land and hope that people notice.
Some people did notice. I’d receive some thankful phone calls or an email saying “I really like the improvements to so-and-so trail.” Even with these complements, my staff and even my boss, mentioned that we need to do a better job of telling our story and build some understanding and support for the things that we do.
Having all of this in the back of my mind, I was wondering through a Barnes and Noble in Phoenix, and on a whim, I bought the book “On Writing Well” by William Zinser. He talked about word usage and sentence structure and communicating clearly and concisely. Then I read a chapter on audience. He wrote that the only audience that really matters if you want to write well is…YOU! “You are writing for yourself. Don’t try to visualize the great mass audience. There is no such audience – every reader is a different person.”
Reading that was a shocker, but at the same time, made sense. If I want people to read what I write, the first person who has to like it is me. It’s the only way you can write with passion and put words on paper that say what I feel. If others like it, great! If they don’t, oh well…maybe someone else will get to them. Or they won’t.
My goal in learning to write better is to be able to communicate my views in a way that will bring support to the issues that I feel are important. So, that’s what this blog will be about…for now. So, is audience important? Is this assignment valid? I think so, but at the same time, I want to write for me as much as anyone else.