Anyone in the past 15 years who has expressed an interest in writing has no doubt been recommended to read, given a copy of, or gone out and purchased Stephen King’s On Writing. Haven’t read it, been recommended it or heard of it? You can bring yourself up to speed here.
It was given to me as a Christmas present in 2013 by my wife and I devoured it immediately. One of King’s rules for writers that has sat uneasily with me since reading the book is to write with your ideal reader in mind:
“If you know the tastes of your Ideal reader at least half as much as I know the tastes of mine, it will be not difficult for you to imagine what he will like, and what – not.”
As has been well documented, King’s ideal reader is his wife Tabitha. I knew straight away my wife wasn’t my ideal reader. We can’t stand each other’s taste in books. So if not my wife, who?
My brother, who has many similar interests in music, film, culture and sports? Possibly, but he doesn’t read a whole lot. He’s a ‘doing’ guy and loves to be active, whereas I’m more into being quiet, observing and mulling things over.
My friends, who again share many similar interests and who I have a history of shared experiences with? Yes, though they all live busy lives with work, family, and children and I know from talking to them finding time to read becomes a precious luxury often passed over for a good night’s sleep or vegging out with their partner watching a good movie or DVD boxset.
So, thinking beyond who I actually know, maybe hipsters are my ideal reader, and as soon as I think that I think, ‘No way’.
I want to have a connection with my ideal reader. I want to move in their world, and them in mine. I want to know that they’ve listened to the latest Wilosophy with Wil Anderson podcast and whether they liked it or not, had an opinion on the discussion Wil had with his guest. I want to know that they experience similar struggles to me and find solace, escape and rejuvenation in the pages of a great book, possibly written by Don DeLillo or Bret Easton Ellis or Chuck Palahniuk.
And so I’ve known all along who my ideal reader is, yet I’ve been afraid, embarrassed and too insecure about it to say it out loud.
And yet, when I do, it feels so right. I am my own ideal reader. As a writer I’m coming to understand that I’m writing the type of stories that I want to read.
Totally self-serving? Narcissistic? Just plain bloody stupid and a major impediment to ever becoming a published writer?
Who cares? I don’t. I’m putting it out there and it feels good doing it. To echo the sentiment of my great literary anti-hero, Jimmy Rabbitte, ‘I’m my own ideal writer and I’m proud.’