For years I have been a writer, an editor and a teacher of creative writing. Now I want to share some of what I have learned along the way. Write On The Fringes is a blog about the dangers, the disappointments and the rewards of writing. It's a record of the writing of a novel, from the tantalising first inklings of an idea, through to the final draft. But above all it's an exploration of the art and the craft of writing and the nature of story, as well as a search for the essence of creativity and the complex nature of truth.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Who Do We Write For?

'What I represent every time I set out to achieve something, is myself.'
Maya Angelou

In previous posts I've pondered on why we write and what our responsibilities are as writers. Now I want to explore who it is we write for, something which is clearly linked with our reasons for writing. Often when we do a creative writing class we are asked to consider who we write for, an exercise I have always struggled with but one that is nevertheless useful. An acquaintance of mine who is a non fiction writer friend says he can only find the right tone and style for a particular book by choosing a person he is writing for and imagining it as a conversation. However, in most cases we are less specific, perhaps writing for women, or children, young adults, or readers of a particular genre.

Asking ourselves who we write for can help us to usefully consider our market and perhaps choose a genre in which to write, if that suits our need. We may then have to adapt our style to that readership, in the process considering our use of language and the concepts we wish to explore. Even more importantly though (to me anyway), is that asking who we write for helps us to identify what is limiting us as writers. If we write for our critics then we will be writing to please. If we write for our mothers then most likely we will be leaving out much that we need to explore, or conversely we might be writing simply to shock. If we write only for our publishers then we run the risk of losing our voice and purpose. Writing for a specific genre too, runs the risk of boxing us into a category that we can subsequently find it difficult to escape from. We might become boxed into a genre, a style, even a theme and one day find ourselves with nothing left to say because we are no longer growing. Paradoxically though, we may instead find that the limitations of a particular genre give us more freedom to explore, allowing our imaginations to work within the relative safety of its boundaries. And of course, if we love a particular genre then it follows that we will enjoy working within it to create our own stories.

I would like to say that I write for myself, that I follow my heart. And in a sense I do, because I write what I feel needs saying. I don't imagine a reader; if I did I would find myself tongue tied. I don't imagine a story because I expect it to unfold as I write. I don't even imagine a genre because I'm not sure I could stay within its boundaries. However, even when we write for ourselves our perspective is limited, by our ideology, our history, our culture, the stories we tell ourselves about who we are. . . In the end, perhaps all we can do is as Aldous Huxley suggested when he wrote: 'Writers write to influence their readers, their preachers, their auditors, but always at bottom, to be more themselves.'

Considering who we are writing for can also help us to explore further the reasons we write at all. I had to write Flight. It was a deep need that demanded resolution. It was also a responsibility – to tell a story I felt needed telling. In its writing I tried not to think of readers or publishers, and instead concentrated on uncovering the story I had to tell. Because Flight is my story and I had to live much of it. It is difficult to say how much of the novel is true in the factual sense of the word. Like Fern, I was born in Adelaide and adopted by a religious couple. There are, however other true events in the story that are not so easily identified as fact. Describing how she writes, Isabel Allende said, 'in the slow silent process of writing I enter a different state of consciousness in which sometimes I can draw back a veil and see the invisible. The writing of Flight was just this, a stepping through the veils and a drawing together of my own numinous experiences. I wrote down the visions that came to me unexpectedly, the glimpses of a past beyond the boundaries of my own life and the dreams which spoke to me symbolically. And in the process something coherent formed from them in the shape of a story and one that refers back to a long tradition of storytelling that explores the journey of the soul and our initiations into the mysteries of life.

The themes in Flight are broad but the novel was written for me, to help me understand the threads of my life and to make sense of all that was happening to me. It was also written for anyone who has suffered a loss of meaning in their lives, anyone who is questioning the limitations of the physical world and who is courageous enough to take the journey to self. It is my way of reaching out to others and sharing something I feel is important. So far the novel has been called a work of literature, a commercial thriller, a young adult novel, a fantasy novel, a romance, a spiritual novel and a memoir. I sincerely hope it embraces all of these categories while defying the limitations of any one of them.

Copyright (c) 2012 by Rosie Dub. All rights reserved. You may translate, link to or quote this article, in its entirety, as long as you include the author name and a working link back to this website:


  1. Try as you may, in the end the voice is yours. Sooner or later your voice slips through the narration. The trick is to spot it and correct where needed.

  2. I guess that most writers have been writing from the time they could write and i think that writers should think of that time and say at that young age what motivated me to write, why was i writing and who was i writing for. I think that is what we as writers should stick to when we are older and that i believe will be our true self in writing. tavonga

  3. Thank you for this post- I found it enjoyable and useful!