I’ve been writing for a long while now, and over the past twelve years, I’ve been fortunate enough to see some of my words go to print.
Knowing that I will have at least a few readers is almost entirely wonderful. I always dreamed of sharing my stories, so as corny as it is, every time I’m published, it’s a bit of a dream come true. It’s inspiring—At least one person (the editor!) feels my thoughts are worthy of being read . . . It’s motivating—Oh, rats. I can’t watch The Office Season 3 all day and night again. My fill-in-the-blank-with-current-project is due. (Deadlines = this writer’s best friend.)
There is a downside to knowing you have an audience, though—and it’s a sneaky one, one I hadn’t known I was affected by until yesterday when I was journaling about the past year. I was mid-scribble in my private notebook, when I realized I was holding back, just a bit. I was writing about the parts of my life readers might be interested in, instead of all the myopic navel gazing stuff that’s only important to me.
I was candid. I whined. But I was candid, politely. I whined only in a philosophical, interesting way, not in a full out temper-tantrum-brat way (and I wish it was because I’m more inclined to be philosophical and interesting than beastly, but no, that’s not it at all).
I found myself editing my thoughts before I spilled them, consciously choosing a synonym if I’d just used the word I was about to scrawl down.
And it hit me—Beware the Audience! Don’t let the fact that you might have readers keep you from saying what you need to say. It is crucial to get what you’re thinking, feeling, observing out on the page in the ugliest, most uncensored way. And likewise, sometimes you just need to spill Pollyannaish clichés of joy and happiness out in ink.
Writers who want to share stories, poems, ideas, and thoughts with others have to consider their audience. (Hello, Punctuation and Word Choice. Greetings, Grammar Conventions! Good-bye, Incoherent Ranting. See ya, Said-that-twenty-times-already-aren’t-you-over-it-already. Put on a towel, Too-much-information-girl.)
However, writers who want to have stories, poems, ideas and thoughts to share must have times when they completely ignore the possibility of there ever being a reader. They have to write things that make them cringe, things that they burn, literally, once they’re out on the page. Or at least I need to.
I have to get out the junk, so that the things I really wonder and care about are freed from the mire of everyday stuff. The process is akin to wading into my closet and weeding through a whole bunch of things that are out of season, that I want to keep but don’t wear anymore, that I’m holding onto for someone else, to get the one item that’s perfect for right now.
I’d love to hear thoughts on this topic. Does thinking about potential readers freeze you or inspire you? Can (should!) a writer ever fully forget the possibility of an audience?