There is a fairly large debate in certain literary circles as to whether audiences are addressed or invoked whenever a writer produces a work. I didn’t know this myself until I read a couple essays for my writing class. I, at least, feel that I can leave that argument to literary theorists. When I write, I could care less whether I’m addressing or invoking an audience. As long as it gets people to think, I’m good.
However, it can help to consider what you think about your audience, because that can affect the way that you write. We may think we are just writing to ourselves, and that’s true in a way. Writing is not an act of immediate communication. We aren’t orators standing before the podium. However, even if I write something terrible, I don’t try and excuse it by saying only I will read it. We should always strive for the best we can do, so when an audience does read it, it won’t feel intimidating.
Whether I have in mind a large or small audience, nameless faces or people we know, one thing stays the same: I care what my audience thinks. This can be both helpful and dangerous. I won’t be too outlandish or controversial if the work doesn’t call for it, and I’m more careful to refine and revise if we know that the audience will scrutinize whatever I write. I’ll spend much more time on a poem for a class than one I’m going to only give to my parents.
On the other hand, having a particular audience in mind can sometimes be harmful. Sometimes, I find it helpful if I don’t know my audience. Then, I am not swayed by their beliefs and opinions, and fit my work to match them. I don’t look as hard for approval. When I’m writing for my parents, I mostly write seriously and thematically. When I’m writing more for friends, I write more action, mystery, and suspense.
While playing to what your audience wants can be a good thing, it can also change your style and favored subject matter. I believe that you shouldn’t change any aspect of your writing unless you want to, or are convinced you should. I suppose it’s a matter of picking your battles. On major issues like themes and characters, I prefer to stick to what I’ve planned, but on other issues I’ll allow myself to change things if they’re criticized.
An audience’s expected impact on any work can easily be seen. I suppose that, in some cases, it cannot be avoided– that is, if we want to be published in the first place. Even in cases where publication is instantaneous and a decision only of the writer, I doubt that someone who cares enough to gather readers would care nothing at all about the readers themselves. Rather than try and cut out this dependence entirely, we must use it to its greatest good. Pleasing the audience comes second. Being authentic and saying what you want to say is first every time.