An Audience of One
I’ve taken this idea from John Irving’s “Until I Find You.” I didn’t make this up, but I love it.
There’s a lot of talk about readers in writing, and whether or not you should write for them. In my (albeit limited) expertise, the debate breaks down along the same divide as almost every writing debate: literary guys on one side, genre gals on the other. (There was no reason for that sentence to be gendered. I could un-gender it, but I didn’t.) Folks in the literary community say, Write for yourself, the rest will follow, or something along those lines. Folks in the genre community say, Know your audience, or never get published. And me? Well. I say write for the one person who really needs it.
This is kind of a lofty idea, and like lofty in the “look up there in the sky, someone threw a ball too high, is it ever gonna come down” way.
It goes like this: when I’m writing and I get stuck, I don’t think about a crowd of faceless people. For me, these are the “readers” that are so often spoken of, and I can’t picture them. They’re faceless and intimidating, and they’re just as likely to eat me alive as read me. (I’ve always thought ‘read me’ sounded like a sex act. I think I’ll make it one.)
I also can’t write for myself because I’m stuck. If I was writing for myself, I’d just stop. But if I imagine that one person that really needs it (or okay, more realistically, wants this story), then yeah. Alright. I can do it for them.
Shit gets weird when I start picturing them. Honestly? It’s usually a younger version of myself. Sometimes, it’s my mom. (Sorry, Mom! Or you’re welcome, Mom. You’ll never know.) It can be a friend or an ex-lover, and once in a while, it’s someone I make up. The fact is, they’re out there, somewhere, and I’m creating this thing for them on the off chance that one day, they find it. (And I want everyone to notice that I gendered literary and genre up there, but then used ‘they’ for s/he down here. Suck it.)
My number one goal as a writer is to one day meet the person who I wrote a piece for. I just want someone to walk up to me and say, “Yo, K. That piece? That one was for me.” And, if I’m really luck, they’ll tell me why. (And people say I’m not a romantic. Psh.)