I spent most of yesterday afternoon working on a paper I’m co-writing. It was one of those days when the writing came easy. I was moving from topic to topic, but then I realized that I was reaching too far backward – I was explaining things which I shouldn’t have had to explain to the audience I was trying to reach.
When I first started writing, one of the pieces of advice that I heard was that you should always imagine that you are writing to a particular person. It gets you going – you’re automatically in an explanatory state of mind and you know what you can expect from your audience. I was doing that, but I noticed that I was drifting. I was losing my sense of audience. I started to explain one thing, and then I realized that I would have to explain something else to help it make sense. I couldn’t imagine that person any more. How could I know what they know and what they don’t?