In the Beginning There Should Be Audience

Writing just for me. My earliest audience for storytelling was my younger brother and sister who would sit and play with toys while I half-read and half told stories from picture books. They served as the audience for the first book I produced, a story about a clock with a fancy cover of pink fabric from my mother’s sewing closet. The cover was more exciting for me than the story.

My later writings were directed at the ubiquitous phantoms directing school work. In sixth grade, however, I wrote a story about a lion for Miss Shafsky, the student teacher who had encouraged me. After that I wrote for myself in various little notebooks and a Betsy Clark diary filled out in pencil; when one year was done, I erased all the entries to begin a new year.

Side tripping: In summer school of my 13th year, between 9th and 10th grades, I took a creative writing from Mr. Siringer, a man who would change forever the way my scattershot brain was wired. The unexamined life was not worth living. The concept obsessed me all summer as I wrote about the silly things 13-year-olds do: friends, school, boys, my French horn, at first. Later I would approach the subjects that were more intimate to me, riskier to write down on a page that my mother would read: family relationships and my feelings about life. Mr. Siringer was an active reader, responding to phrases, experiences, or ideas with authentic interest. He wrote in red pen on lines above my penciled writings. After that summer, my audience shrunk to an audience of one. Me.

Audience awareness. So, I continued writing a journal for the next sixty years for an audience of one. In my teens and twenties, the days of letter writing, my audience grew to include all my friends who moved on to New York and Los Angeles with new family members sprinkled here and there. A Christmas newsletter came next, the audience grew. When I started writing papers and reports on computing systems and business practices, my audience was narrowly focused to one company, one executive at a time. Then there were the group projects: Forty highly opinionated people in a room to help critique and “write” and the writerly me. Talk about tough critique sessions!

Who’s Your audience?
How many audiences have you written to?
What do plan to give your audience in the narrative you wrote, or the talk you gave?
What did you really deliver?
What do you think the audience actually got from you?

As for me, I had planned to give you a breakdown of what awareness of audience gives your writing from the start. What I have written is a prompt to get you thinking about audience as an extension of your writing effort.

What kind of an audience is an audience of one? A critic? A creative? A procrastinator?


Next: It’s all about Audience

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