As a writer, you are frequently advised to write with a clear sense of who your audience is. This helps you focus and tailor a written communication that will achieve the greatest impact.
Such advice to writers is fine and probably useful most the time, but what if you tend to imagine audiences who don’t like your writing? What if you imagine them frowning, scoffing, dozing or gagging as their eyes scan the page? I knew a professor whose writing was blocked by her recurrent inner visions of groups of graduate students laughing at her articles.
If you are prone to having doubts and fears about your writing (extremely common) you may automatically conger up visions of overly-negative reactions from your imagined audience. This mental habit can be viewed as an intelligent system of ego-preservation because such visions prevent you from taking the risk of finishing and showing your work to others. These mini-hallucinations save you from the experience of criticism, disappointment, neglect, humiliation and rejection. That’s a good thing, right? Right??
As a writer you do need a good internal, self-monitoring, bullshit-detecting mechanism that helps you critically review and edit your work, and for this it can help to imagine the reactions of your audience. For instance, if you imagine them wincing at certain passages, that’s useful information that can motivate you to revise and improve.
But if your internal audience is jeering at you before you even turn on your computer, there’s a good chance that your ego-protecting visualizing function has run amuck. That’s way more ego-protection than you need.
Let the man in the picture above fall asleep on his keyboard as he reads your words, then go ahead and write a bunch before he wakes up. And if you want to be guided by a sense of audience, try to imagine a different reader who is less of a drag.