My Audience of One: Why I Write

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An engaged kid helps me focus on why I write.

My editor for this column asked me recently whom I think my readers are and what my ideal reader looks like.

It got me thinking about why I write this column. It’s meant to be about all things related to nonprofit, work, career and life. So I get to write about pretty much whatever is on my mind. I’m lucky to have such an outlet. But writing doesn’t come naturally to me; it takes a lot for me to keep a monthly column. Every few months I think, this will have to be the thing I give up so I can focus on my kids, or clients, or health, or whatever. The time and mental energy involved in writing feel like luxury I can’t really afford, but I love it, so I keep doing it.

I love writing, so I keep doing it.

I told my editor that I thought my audience was mostly my friends, family, former colleagues and some clients interested in my other work. But when I actually sit down to write, the truth is that I write for an audience of one: my 10-year-old son. He’s a voracious reader and thoughtful writer, when he’s not out being silly with his friends. He has read every piece I’ve written for this column so far, including the ones where I talk about being overwhelmed with endless to-dos, the time my daughter was sick, what my new year’s resolutions are and my rant about our new president elect.

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He squints his eyes to get through a post, and says things like: “Wow, that’s actually really inspiring, Mommy! Really!” Or, “Ummm, no offense, but that one’s a little too long.” Or, “Can I read that book about bright spots?” I love this about us.

My husband, a talented photographer when he’s not working for money, chronicles our kids’ lives with such beauty and emotion that it takes my breath away. That’s how he expresses his love for them and our family. (He’s not much of an “I love you” kind of guy. I, on the other hand, can spend all day telling them I love them.)

why I write
An audience of one can be inspirational! / via

But I was reminded by this question from my editor that this column, like many things I do, is a way for me to express my love for my kids. And my way of telling them about myself and my thoughts for when they are ready and willing to listen. I should preface this by saying: I’m a positive person with a lot of morbid, worst-case-scenario thoughts. I think a lot about how my kids might know me and see me as they grow up and see all my shortcomings and mistakes, and I think a lot about how they might know me if I dropped dead one day. I used to tell my closest colleagues at the nonprofit I ran to please tell my kids about me, about the things I cared about and about what kind of colleague and friend I am if anything happened to me. I guess it’s really important to me to be known by my kids and to be loved by them for who I am and what I care about. My husband knows me very well (we’ve been together since college), but he doesn’t really understand, let alone explain to my kids, about my professional life, or the kind of things I write about in this column. This is one way I can tell my kids in my own words about what I do and what I think about outside of our house.

My column is a way to express my love for my kids.

It is my hope that my daughter will soon start to read this (but I won’t make her!) and ask questions, too. This girl tends to have a lot of tough questions. She once asked, “Mommy, did you like it when you beast fed me? Did I like it?”

So, as we close out another year, a very tough year, I’m grateful for this column. And I’m grateful for all of you out there reading it. Thank you. I really mean it. And if you happen to meet my kids, please remind them I love them. With all of my heart.