Remember the Bass-o-Matic, Dan Aykroyd on SSN?
Sometimes it sure seems like the days are being gobbled up, just that way. You drop one in the top about 7:30am, press Medium, and … there’s a horrible noise. Bones and scales. Nobody should have to watch this going on. And the result, when the late shows come on, isn’t nearly as nutritious as we’d like to pretend.
But I’ve over-blended the analogy, as usual.
I’m way behind on my blog reading. I’m behind on my blog writing. But while I’m waiting for consciousness to grind down to a nice, slow stir, here’s a little something to whet your appetite:
Finding your voice in your audience
I listened to an interview recently of the writer Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote Eat, Pray, Love. She was asked about the genesis of voice and said that it’s important to think about the person you’re writing to – ideally, an individual. She pointed to examples in her own work, and to whom each piece was addressed.
“A consciousness of who you’re speaking to and why is crucial. … Storytelling without an idea of who you’re telling your story to is a voice echoing in an empty room.”
Gilbert explained that this is true because we are different in the way we speak and act, depending on the company we’re in. And I think that’s true. I know it is. I can be very different with different people, if for no other reason than that each relationship imposes a disparate dynamic.
William Stafford said it all best, in his poem A Ritual To Read To Each Other.
And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider–
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.
Yes, yes. But doesn’t this contradict what we’ve so often and emphatically been told by the teachers of creative writing, that we shouldn’t consider the audience at all? Don’t even imagine that there might one day be an audience, they say. Write for yourself. Because worrying about critical reception, misunderstanding, hurt feelings, etc., will kill all hope of creating art.
Well, then, so be it. So it goes. Let it be.
Doo bee doo bee doo.
And in case you’re wondering, it’s true.
I’m writing it all to you.
I just don't know who my addressee would be. There are so many people doing a somber Do Paso in my mind when I'm writing that it's impossible to get them to sit down, let alone get one's attention. [http://goo.gl/4Zljr]And they are all more subject than audience, in what seems far more existential exploration than performance, to me.
I'm not certain where I fall on this one. Certainly the image of the "pure artist," the person who creates without regard to his work's reception, appeals. The idea that Van Gogh stuck those crows over the wheat field to enhance sales among birdwatchers is disturbing, eh? Or that the epiphany Camus' Stranger had at the end was the brainchild of his literary agent? Ugly. OTOH, likely, nowadays, leaning over our shoulders as we're hunched over laptops is a wisp of murmur of our audience–who can truthfully deny it?
Kyle, I agree with Gilbert. My first agent told me (he had been a senior editor for 25 years in various big publishing houses) that I should write for my best reader – he considered that to be someone smart, interested in the way people think and act and struggle with life and relationships, w/ an enquiring mind, who loved beautiful language.I think what he said was sensible, but it also had the very needed effect of giving me permission to write what I was *already writing.* And to know that there was indeed an audience out there who would read and appreciate it.And I love that William Stafford poem. A few lines of it make an appearance in Signs That Might Be Omens. It's an incredible poem.