write like nobody's reading.
But I believe there is another side to the coin, a side I had not particularly noted until reading Dorothy Sayers' book on the Trinity and the creative mind, The Mind of the Maker. (I wrote something of a synopsis for this after I finished it back in September.) In her work she draws a parallel between the economy of the Godhead and the economy of the mind of creative man - a reasonable object, seeing as we are made in the Image of God. The first two "persons" of this imagining, creating mind are simplest to see and to explain; they are the Idea, that thing that exists in our heads before ever we begin to write, and the Energy or Activity, where the Idea is translated into something understandable to others. But of course the third is rather more elusive, which to me makes Sayers' parallel more credible.
The third "person" deals, in essence, with the power that brings about proper communication and appreciation in the mind of the reader. It is that thing which conveys the spirit of the Idea as expressed in the Activity. It is that thing which, when present, creates the vital connection between the reader and the writer through the book. And it is absolutely necessary.
In her book - which I continue to recommend for all writers - Sayers generally uses the example of a playwright, being one herself (as well as a novelist and an essayist, but that's beside the point). It is critical, she writes, that when a man is penning his play, he keep in mind the perspective of the audience. What is the audience going to understand by this wordplay? How are these props going to appear? Will the scene be conveyed? She uses a humorous example of a play that failed to do just this; instead, the writer (who really should have been a novelist instead) substituted a long passage of "stage directions" - those sections in italics at the start of a scene in a Dover Thrift edition of Shakespeare. Thunder. Darkness. Woman in bed, tossing and turning as if in pain. Woman cries out, twisting sheets in hands. End of Scene I.
This is an exaggeration, and yet it is an exaggeration that applies to all creative fields: whether you are writing a novel or a play, a failure to figuratively place oneself in the viewer's chair will result in a terrible disconnect. At the heart of the matter, the fact is that mature writers, the ones not just starting out (and that is an important caveat), must write as though someone is reading. Because isn't that the very thing we desire?
he that uses his words loosely and unsteadily will either not be minded or not understood.
- john locke, an essay concerning human understanding
We want to be minded. We want to be understood. And in order to do so, we have to be able to have minds in two positions at once: that of the writer, designing and creating; and that of the reader, following and learning. That is why, while we cannot allow worries about what others will think to paralyze us, we also cannot ignore them. They have their place in helping us to convey our story, and the vital spirit of that story.