What Do I Think of You?

Serious question.

I’ve been writing for you for a few years now. Who do I think about when I’m writing a post? And what does it mean to write ‘for you,’ for that matter? There’s clearly some personality, some identity I can conceive of as belonging to you, and I know there are things I think of when I’m writing an article.

What is there, then? What do I do when I think of you?

Let’s talk about it.

First up, just putting ideas out there on the page, not thinking about structuring this clearly. I try to make sure I explain things as if you don’t know the things I’m talking about. I like describing things so that if you don’t know what they are, you can get a useful idea for what I mean, but if you do already know what I mean, it’s going to be funny to you. I want to be helpful explaining things, I don’t want to give false information, so I have to assume you want that information and that you trust me. I figure you don’t click a lot of links if I send you places.

I know I don’t trust that you care that much about what I’m talking about. I know I feel like I have to make a big meaningful point if I’m going to hold your attention for more than a thousand words. A thousand words, about six minutes of reading? That’s, I think, a meaningful amount of your attention. I feel like a thousand words isn’t wasting your time by making you click on something that should be a tweet.

I think that you kind of care about world building stuff – specifically, I think that Tab likes the world building stuff, and they talk about that, which is 100% enough of a reason to keep doing it. That world-setting stuff, I can use that later, it connects to conversations with Fox. Writing about D&D, I think you care about the game and the lessons we can glean from that game when you want to make your own games, like tabletop games or just running games on the spot? But I don’t expect you’d come to me for political insight into how D&D gets made.

I think most of you don’t care about Magic: The Gathering but a few of you do, and the few that do care a lot. I know I think of you as someone who cares about making games, but I don’t know if I’m giving you helpful information about how to make a game.

And that’s just a brain dump of traits about you. I think I know what you want, but I don’t know how good a job I do serving that want. And I think some of the things I want to write about, you don’t necessarily want to read, but you’ll give me some patience with those things.

I think you’re probably a little bit younger than me. Maybe a little older, for a few of you, but mostly, I’m an elder millenial offering you guidance on things as I progress, day by day, through this journey and try to reassure you with wisdom I’ve accumulated. I think that you probably think of me as reasonably mentally together and coping with my life, and part of that is I think I don’t often share or vent my mental problems on the internet in places. Part of trying to be sincere about that, though, means I also don’t tend to vent that stuff anywhere, and I try to work through it by writing.

I hope you like my fiction.

I’m afraid you don’t like my fiction.

You’ve told me you like my fiction.

I don’t understand that.

This is a process of reflection that I think it’s worth doing. I normally do this stuff in private, maybe taking notes and aggregating information in my notebooks. I selfconsciously inspect the information my blog tracking software gives me too, which is, also, crucially, trying to be as unintrusive as possible. This reflection involves thinking about the experience of writing, but also, thinking about what I notice about myself when I go back and reread my work.

It involves a degree of introspection, which can be very awkward for me. You have to have the feelings (amazing, who feels things), then you have to consider what those feelings mean. Try to interrogate them into specifics, find things you can do or can’t do that satisfy or irritate them. I really want to get prototypes out faster, but right now the demands I’m under for my time make that unlikely to impossible. And when I say that, I know what I think I mean is that time spent on those prototypes is time when my mind tends to slide off them.

What I want you to be able to use from this, though, is the fundamental idea of thinking about who you are making things for. What kind of language do you want to use, who do you want to talk to? And what kind of way is best to talk to them?

For example, one of my friends has some pretty severe ADHD and that means these long articles are not easy for them to read. I care a lot about them, and that means that when I do start on a subject I think they’d like (often stuff that relates to game designs, superheroes, videogames with cool ideas), I want to make that approachable for them. That means that those articles tend to be more readily made into videos or audio recordings, because it’s easy for me to imagine that it’d be easier for that friend to enjoy the work.

On the other hand, I know that for say, lists of instructions, videos and audio feel bad to me. When I want to go get a set of instructions for how to do something, or a reference document, I want that in text, and since that’s how I want to do things, I want to present those ideas in that way. That’s another part of it, though! I am part of my audience. I don’t want my work to be presented in ways I wouldn’t want to consume it, and I think that’s reasonable.

This is a lesson, I hope: Remember that you are part of your audience, and you should be trying to make things that satisfy you.

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