Who I’m Writing To

I saw Cheryl Strayed speak last night at the Herbst Theater in San Francisco. She’s always a refreshing reminder that what we say matters, the stories we share matter, that raw grief never truly leaves us, and that you can totally throw around some f-bombs and still be sweet, endearing, and loving. It’s a fine balance to strike, but she fucking nails it every time.

You’ve probably read Wild, or at the very least heard of it and followed Reese Witherspoon to the movie screen to watch it. But the book she published so soon after, Tiny Beautiful Things, will change the way you think about basically everything. And let you know one simple thing: You’ll be fine — totally 100% okay — no matter what’s going on right now.

I’ve read that you should write something you would want to read, and recently read that you should write for someone you know. As I’ve treked along in my career as a dietitian, I haven’t done either of those things well, if at all. Until very recently, I can’t think of more than a few times when I considered my audience for any piece (e.g. blog post, freelance article, handout, tweet, etc.), or even a single person (or idea of a person), that I hoped would read what I was saying. I just put on my dietitian hat and wrote what I assumed the people expected, with some mix of authority and authenticity. I never thought, “This point is really important for this person, so even if they don’t read it I’m going to write it as if I’m saying it right to their face.” But I can see now how powerful that could be. Even if I just started with a younger me, or a friend, or someone I’ve worked with.

Cheryl spoke about the difference between writing a novel, a memoir, and an advice column. The former are traditional forms of literature, though very different, and follow certain rules. The latter is an act of speaking straight to someone who asked you something with personal motives and emotion, and as you write you’re only responding to that one person, not to an audience. I’m thinking, what if we started writing everything as if it were to one person? Maybe not always the same person, and maybe not an actual person but rather the idea of a character. Then hopefully when that one person reads, it matters to them. And when everyone else reads, maybe we don’t know it but they are “that person” too. 

What health professionals have to say is important, as evidenced by the fact that the media can’t shut up about nutrition, medical, or general health advice and everyone feels the need to chime in. The people read it — I read it — with hope that something important and worth knowing is somewhere in those words. But maybe what we really read it for is hope that there’s a little piece of advice in there specifically for us.

To my person: I hope to start writing shit that resonates with you, that you need and are ready to hear, and I’m pretty pumped because we both know we’ve got a LOT to catch up on…

Comments

  1. Kim
    February 4, 2016

    Girl, you are on a roll with these posts. I am kind of obsessed with Cheryl Strayed. If you don’t already, you should totally listen to Dear Sugar podcast too! I’m looking to bring the same authenticity to my blogging and writing, so I’m with ya! Keep it up!

    • February 4, 2016

      YES, I love the Dear Sugar podcast! Her and Steve get it right, every time. 🙂

  2. February 4, 2016

    SO jealous you got to see her speak! Her books are so inspiring — I bet it’s amazing to hear her in real life.
    I love how you are writing what you want to read. So many times, I realize I’m just writing what I think I am supposed to but it’s so boring and makes me uninspired. I am definitely going to use your “write to one person” tip! xxoo

    • February 4, 2016

      Just as amazing IRL, and definitely worth looking up her tour schedule. 😉

  3. February 4, 2016

    Thank you so much for writing this, you have really inspired me as a nutrition blogger to think a little more about my ideal audience. Also, love a well-placed F-bomb. 😉

  4. February 18, 2016

    I sometimes think I get lost in what I’m writing and who I’m writing to. Writing to a specific person is a great way to capture your voice – I often just write so I can remember what I’ve done, and writing to myself is awesome and truly captures my voice. Definitely important to keep in mind while writing!

    Thanks for the book suggestion – I’m going to look up Tiny Beautiful Things!

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