I’m not sure who I’m writing for. I’ve been writing columns for the past 11 weeks, and I still haven’t figured out the answer to the first rule I heard in every writing class and seminar I’ve ever taken: Know your target audience.
I search my memory for anecdotes and connect them to larger patterns I observe. I compile resources that bridge the gaps between these different patterns and then form sentences that together shouldn’t exceed 1000 words for publication purposes. I have gone through this process over and over, but I still can’t picture what you, dear reader, look like or why you have any interest in reading the final product of this process.
What I do know, though, is that there’s no general answer to this question. I can’t describe my “target” audience with a broad descriptor, like age or gender. But I can pinpoint people and places and objects and emotions that I always go back to when I write and dream.
And when I recall them one by one, I find myself tracing all the reasons why I write.
I write for my 100-page A4 hardcover notebook. I got it from a nearby stationery store in seventh grade when my “short stories” began filling my school notebooks and needed a new home. I turned to this notebook whenever I was frustrated with the world and had no hope in its so-called “leaders.” Scribbling words in it with my messy Arabic handwriting was my way of saving the world. But most times, it was just me scribbling into the void.
I write for my parents. They were the first audience for that first huge middle school notebook, which was soon followed by other notebooks of different sizes and covers. They clapped after each story, some of which I now can’t read without cringing. They also asked me to be careful whenever I wrote. Some topics shouldn’t be discussed in public — for them, my safety comes first, and saving the world comes second. Still, my eighth grade self decided it was a good idea to start a blog.
I write for my first blog. Hiding was something I was always taught; it was a mechanism for survival. I grew into it until I believed suffocating was a way of breathing. I hid in notebooks and behind closed doors. But people resonating with what I wrote made sharing my words, which felt like standing naked in front of them, completely worth it. I didn’t know many of the clicks were from my parents or friends. But at 14, I still thought I was saving the world through this blog.
I write for my Forever 21 blue fur coat. It used to be one of the many clothing items I would spend hours considering before actually wearing (shoutout to body dysmorphia). I still remember the first time I wore it in public with my friends. Being seen while wearing it was my biggest fear. I still remember how I couldn’t raise my head. And when I did, I was looking both ways, making sure no one saw me. How can one clothing item cause me so much fear? But fear, the breeder of hiding, was my biggest enemy. And it still is.
I write for fear. I’m a coward. Actually, I’m just afraid. I write under pseudonyms and from private accounts. I write pieces that I delete later. I shy away from my truth by writing about it using metaphors and vague words. There’s always a form of authority haunting me while I write. I carry my family and my life when I write. And they all are put at risk if a piece I write contains a few words that trigger this authority. It’s so funny yet so sad, how authority is such a fragile concept, one that is disrupted by words and sentences — and more than that, the truth.
I write for a new world. I don’t know what that world looks like or feels like or even what it smells like. But I do know that world is beyond what’s “normal.” It exceeds binaries and fear. In this world, 13-year-olds don’t have to be so frustrated with the world around them that they seek refuge in writing instead of “leaders.” They’re also not told by their parents to always be extremely cautious of speaking the truth because it may come at the cost of their life. In this world, they speak the truth and think they can save the world — and actually do. In this world, they wear all the fur coats they want (ethically made ones, for sure) without having to hide. I write for a world where we’re no longer suffocated or haunted by any form of authority.
I write for a world where I’m no longer afraid.
Sending you all the warmth and love,