“Write for your ideal reader”

Angst and Desire
2 min readSep 30, 2023
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

I found this quote in Julia Cameron’s The Right to Write, a motivational text that contains many effective techniques for overcoming internal blocks to creativity. She’s written many such books — and become more famous for them than her own fiction — most notably, The Artist’s Way.

The best advice I was ever given about writing came to me early in my writing career from Arthur Kretchmer, the editor of Playboy.

“Don’t bother to write for your common reader, Julia,” Arthur told me. “You’ll never meet your common reader. Write for your ideal reader, the one who will get everything you say.”

When we become focused on who will read our final work, this can often lead to a kind of stage-fright. We find ourselves afraid of being judged, so we seize up, and say or write nothing. The most common advice is to stop thinking about our audience, but Cameron takes against this.

For me, part of the ability to be specific has to do with writing to a specific someone, someone who “gets you.” I know that writers are often told not to think about their audience, but I think that advice can be difficult to use. The audience then becomes something vague and amorphous. How do you communicate with that? And isn’t ignoring it just a little coy?

Better to let the audience be someone real — a lover, a best friend, a colleague, someone who gets your jokes or just likes how you think. Choose someone on whom nothing will be wasted, someone with an appetite for life in all its messy glory. That someone will enjoy your writing specifically. Write specifically to that someone. This will make your writing targeted and focused. It will also bring to your writing a purity of intent.

The writer George Saunders confronts a similar issue, and suggests that we imagine ourselves as our own ideal reader.

Do you agree?



Angst and Desire

Curating the best of life advice from Philosophy, Psychology and Literature.