It's been interesting the last few days as I've dived into writing the chapter on audience. I really feel the importance of audience, both for myself and for student writers. I feel much more compelled to write when I think someone might read it. I'm not entirely sure students feel the same way, but based on the class, I think this is true. What's interesting to me, in the research, is the way that teachers have attempted to replicate a real audience through publication, peer review, having students follow a detailed heuristic, or writing up their own description of audience. To me, this is no substitute for having people react to their writing in realistic ways, by saying, "Hey, this is interesting" or "Hey, I don't really understand." Even though I may say the same things to them, it comes across differently when it's a stranger from the outside.
I've been thinking about this too in my own use of the blog here and in other areas of my life. Even though much of my writing has been reflective, it's not without the expectation that someone might respond to it. I suspect that causes to me to modify somewhat my own writing. I know I write things in my reflection that are helpful to me in thinking through whatever issues I might be dealing with, but I also consider what might be helpful to others. I've gained a lot from reading other blogs by people working on their disseration. I've especially appreciated reading specific steps they've taken on any given day. Watching that process unfold is quite helpful and watching it unfold in different ways for different people is also helpful. There is no one right way to do this. Even I have modified my approach, based on my own work rhythms, most recently deciding to write first thing in the morning rather than at night.
While I think many people, when they hear the term audience, think of the mass crowd of unknowable faces, I have come to think of it also as a community of people sharing similar experiences to myself. That doesn't mean I see them as entirely like myself. I can see that in their own writing in the form of comments or their blogs. But this attempt at understanding each other, trying to communicate something to someone is key. Communicating with the air or just with the blank computer screen is no fun. This is really hard work, but when it succeeds, so fulfilling.