Imagining an Audience One Disaster at a Time.

Anyone who knows me  more than superficially knows that I struggle with writing. I am one of those pathetic souls who seems to thrive in a workshop setting but flounders almost immediately upon leaving it. It’s occurred to me recently that when I do write well, whether it’s poetry or not, it’s because I have a specific audience in mind. This makes sense: In the workshop, the workshop was the audience. As someone who hasn’t published shit-tons, it’s hard for me to envision a public audience for my poems. But, perhaps it’s sad to say, at times I’ve been quite fond of the the emails and status updates I’ve written in recent years, thinking always of who might read them, of course. And now that I’m blogging for Midtown Montgomery Living, that comes fairly easy too (save for my perpetual tendency to put things off to the last minute), even if my posts aren’t terribly literary. Why, I’m sharing with other citizens of Montgomery my explorations of our fair city.

I teach composition. I teach rhetorical analysis. I always stress how writing varies according to the situation and audience. And yet somehow it seems like a revelation that not having an audience in mind might be a part of my problem. Not that every writer needs to imagine a specific audience, but I think maybe I do. Back when I kept journals regularly, I always at least imagined me, older one day finding records of my past life.

So these days I’m thinking about whom I’m writing for, both what kind of public I hope to reach and also specific people. It seems to be helping. (Not that I want to jinx things by saying so, so tenuous is my return, my ever-return, no arrival final.)

Another aspect of writing that I’ve worried over is all the different kinds of writing and writing projects I want to do: the old collection of documentary poems, my old-school Jesseca-style personal lyric business, nature poems, film and television analysis, and lingeringly in the back of my mind but not yet attempted, speculative young adult fiction. Just deciding on what to focus on can be overwhelming and result in me doing anything but writing. I feel this urge to pick one project and see it through, perhaps keeping a list of other ideas but refusing to work on them until the One True Project is finished. But perhaps I should approach writing the way I do housework: I work according to whim without any kind of plan at all. I just look for the closest thing to do, do it, and then look for the next closest thing to do. This has me travelling all over the house: Take these hair clips to the bathroom. Straighten the vanity. Take mail to the living room. Fold my TV quilt. Take a glass to the kitchen. Straighten my medicine and vitamin area. Take a pen to my desk. Find hair doodads and take them to the bathroom. And so on. Instead of cleaning the house one room at a time, everything is cleaned in increments, one disaster at a time.

And so I think that’s what I need to do right now: cut myself some slack about having some kind of master plan, and just imagine an audience one writing disaster at a time.

Le sigh. And as an excuse for these crappy meta blogs about writing and not just writing a poem–I think this is a part of my process too. A part of imagining an audience. A part of saying to the world at large: this is what I’m doing. A part of holding myself accountable to the art.


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