An Audience Of “One”

At the start, in 2013, I knew I was writing for only a minuscule group of readers, most of whom I knew personally. That is scary in its own way. Leaving yourself on the page creatively to friends and family is actually much more intimidating than doing so with “strangers.”

The “strangers” reading numbers have grown quite a bit since then. Yet I’d never expected to write for gazillions of readers, and I realistically still don’t. I suppose that actually helps me relax in my writing. It’s freedom, and even in its way it’s like a small – even exclusive – escapist “reading club”: the rest of the “ugly world” is out there…. someplace.

Most of us get some stage fright if we have to give a speech. I used to do politics lectures for a hundred or so college students, so I wasn’t too fazed by public speaking. Yet that was talking to a subject; it wasn’t talking about “yourself.” Moreover, university students have to listen to what you say and pass the exams to get their degree, so they’re “a captive audience.”

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a student desk and chair.
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a student desk and chair.

Novel writing is decidedly something else. No one has to read a word of your tales. Yet if you think about all of those who might read what you’ve invented, you could freeze up in abject terror while sitting at the keyboard.

So I see it this way. I write as if only “one person” is reading the book – as if it were almost a “personal letter” aimed at whomever is reading it. And, in reality, that’s how it works anyway: readers are individuals – whether 10 of them, or 1,000 – sitting alone reading what you’ve written; they aren’t a hundred students packed into an American government class.

Back in 2013, as I was writing Passports, I had also stumbled on an “inspirational” tweet about how that novel you are writing will be someone’s future favorite. And that’s quite possibly so. Indeed that realization is simultaneously encouraging to you as a novelist as well as brings on a feeling of responsibility to do the very best you can.

The other day, I was comparing the finished Distances manuscript – which, as I’ve said, I’ve started to pass around – to the first two novels. I think the novels are getting better in succession, and I hope this third one will be the very best of the three. But one always hopes a new book is an improvement on the previous one, of course.

My writing desk. [Photo by me, 2015.]
My writing desk. [Photo by me, 2015.]

I was wondering again, too: Suppose they are ever widely read? As a writer, naturally one hopes that what you’ve written will be and that it will be enjoyed. Yet if they were suddenly to be read by huge numbers outside our “reading club” here, how would I *really* feel?

Because, after you are published, you never know what might happen somewhere down the road….

Happy Saturday! πŸ™‚

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