Who is your audience?
In the previous post I touched on how we all need a reason to keep writing sometimes, especially when all the world is against you; when it feels like nothing is going your way; when your frustrated, and tired, and your eyes ache, brain is sucked dry, and your just about two second away from calling it quits.
Self motivation doesn’t do anything for anyone when we are in this state of survival. In fact, self motivation might be reduced to just trying to make out of bed and into the shower.
Brushed teeth. Check.
Ate breakfast. Check.
Write. Um. Nope.
There are deadlines for those of us who write professionally; but even then, deadlines can sometimes seem like more of a hindrance, more of an insurmountable wall of terrible, then a motivator to get back to the keyboard/pad of paper.
Enter in our audience.
Obviously, all writers understand at some level that what we put down is for a reader. But for many of us, the reader is a rather abstract idea: Some person, out there, that might like what I have to say. Abstract. Without a face. And, therefore, without a way to hold us accountable.
Those of us with gigantic fan bases are able to identify a little more with our readers because we have met them at readings or at cons; but still, many times even the fans are reduced to a blur of names and personas that we don’t truly know. Not really.
We need a more familiar audience.
For some, the audience is a significant other.
Or a friend.
Or a parents, a sibling, a cousin etc. etc.
It might be a writers group.
The point being that if we have someone we know, intimately even, that we are sharing our writing with, THEIR desire to read more, know more, will keep us motivated through even the roughest times.
It’s hard not to keep writing when your best friend is in your face wanting to know what happens next, for goodness sake.
And writing groups are good for this as well (though a healthy dose of cautious with writing groups. We can talk about the benefits and drawbacks of writer groups at a later date).
But what about those of us who have no one that reads our writing; that toil away in the unknown because writing might be frowned upon by those around us; or we are embarrassed because we are too young and people don’t take us seriously, or we are too old and people think that we’ve passed our prime?
Maybe it’s not that we write, but WHAT we write.
The subject is a little too close; a little too vulnerable.
This Stephen King quote just popped into my head:
“The most important things are the hardest to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them — words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they’re brought out. But it’s more than that, isn’t it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you’ve said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That’s the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller but for want of an understanding ear.”
So what then?
What about writing to an imaginary person?
I know, I know, this sounds a bit childish and silly; but bare with me here and try it, especially if you have no other audience. Pick a famous person that you adore and admire, print out their picture and some quotes that you particularly enjoy of theirs, and write to that person. Sure, there is no feedback, but it is still this contractual understanding with… wait for it… yourself… that is often hard to ignore.
Writing to an imaginary person (or a real person that you have an imaginary relationship with), is a way to trick your conscious/subconscious into believing that there is motivation to write.
Even when brushing teeth is a struggle.
“Just show up,” is a piece of writing advice I have heard and given through the years, and it stands true, though it is annoying pretty much no matter who says it.
I don’t want to just show up.
There are a billion other things I need to do.
I don’t care anymore.
Yes. All that; but show up, and many times something happens there that wouldn’t have ever happened if you had stayed away.
Write for your audience, whatever that might look like, and you will find that even during the most terrible of slumps, there still exists a small flicker of motivation, and sometimes that is all we need to keep going.