The Writing Machine
Education through electronic teaching has come a long way...or has it? I recently came across a program for schools called MY Access which promises to efficiently assess student's writing, not only in spelling and grammar but in elements like content and delivery, organization, completeness of development, etc. According to the spiel,the program "frees teachers from grading thousands of papers by hand" and can mark “more accurately” than human readers. Eh..? How is this possible? Since as far as I know computer programs aren't yet equipped with imaginations how can human creativity be evaluated by a non-creative software program? For example,while developing an argument, a student may find it necessary to write one sentence over the acceptable paragraph length. However apt, brilliant and original that line may be,it would not fit the formula recognized by the machine and so would score a lower grade.
This leads to an interesting question, what would our writing become if our audience was non-human? Success would depend on the closest adherence to the formula but originality and the creative spark which defines us would be diminished. Similarly, when we rely too heavily on formulaic notions and perceptions of the reader...as 'market', are we in a sense de-humanizing our audience by reducing them to an economic demographic? This is not to completely deny the realities of publishing and being marketable and unless you want to write in a vacuum, I suppose a happy balance between marketability and originality is what many writers strive for.
Aim before Firing
Many established writers advocate 'writing for your target' . In an article, Hitting the Bullseye,
writer Susan Vaughn offers some very practical advice about getting
published and makes the valid remark that "while one has to write from
the heart, if you want to sell, it’s also necessary to keep an eye on
the target". However this might be easier said than done if you dont
work in a particular genre with a clear idea of your audience.
Unless you are writing on a particular topic for a specific group of people, a sense of audience can be difficult to define and apply. I tried to imagine myself writing a creative piece and think about who I was writing for. While conscious of writing for an audience I couldn't really articulate what that actually meant, apart from a vague awareness that my potential readers were *human* like myself. Perhaps when it's all boiled down, this is really all some writers need to consider.
Reader-response theory (pomo jargon) tells us that the reader
creates meaning partly out of his or her knowledge, past experiences
with the subject, other reading on the subject, etc. I'm sure this is
true but then it's also true that readers will share many similarities,
in their human emotions, drives and motivations. Marketing aside, I
suspect in the end it's only in writing truthfully, from your own
perspective and not trying too hard to fit the perspectives of others,
that the writer may be able to communicate something meaningful to
George Orwell said this about writing:
The first thing that we ask of a writer is that he shall not tell lies, that he shall say what he really thinks, what he really feels. The worst thing we can say about a work of art is that it is insincere....
It is either the truthful expression of what one man thinks and feels, or it is nothing.
Writing truthfully for an audience of one...yourself, doesn't seem like a bad starting point for a writer to begin.
Things are a bit different here at the hub where I feel less like a writer and more like a 'text provider'. Sometimes I do feel a bit like a writing machine.
Here I'm always at least semi- conscious of my 'target audience'...a vast, mysterious entity known as *search engine traffic*. Yet I still can't get a clear picture of this potential readership-when I try to visualise it it comes across to me vaguely as a sea of hands on a giant keyboard. The hands are always searching, seeking something indefinable through the ether that I must try and second-guess.
I've learnt a few things. I know this Google beast I'm constantly throwing meat at demands that I keep my titles as blandly to the point as I can. I know I should try to write on topics that aren't too saturated while still making sure there are enough people searching for the topic. I know I have to be careful with the layout, lest I obscure any important adsense information.
So far I haven't succeeded but I'm looking at it as a challenge...a nut that I want crack. The odds are against me, especially when you consider that only 25% of people who sign up with adsense make 100 dollars or more a month.It's a tough business if you're in it for the money...some people might say a joke. Ah well.I'm still basically writing for myself..just tweaking things around a bit. I wonder what Orwell would make of the internet...?
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