An Audience of One?

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Back when I was a college Christian, there was a lot of talk about living your life as if for an “Audience of One,” which was a nice way of saying “God is watching your every move, kid, so you better not doing anything to mess up. Like get drunk, or have sex, or even think about lying to your parents.” It was pretty terrifying if you think about it, that idea that you’re always being monitored (which is probably WAY less scary for kids these days, with all the social media monitoring and such). But for someone with an anxiety disorder, the thought of measuring up to some golden standard, and that I was never truly alone, always being watched by some less-than-benevolent Creeper in the Sky.

I’ve had some rousing conversations and thoughts in the past couple of weeks on the topic of writing. Just this morning my dad, who’s visiting for the weekend, and I were talking about writing a book and how different people approach the process. Like most things in my life, I am waiting for a zap of inspiration, which I know goes against every writing book ever written. But it’s my truth. These conversations, though, have made me think about the idea of an audience. Who do we, as writers, bloggers, journallers, write for?

I know that when I write by hand, especially if it’s in anything similar to a journal, it is for myself only. My ideal self, maybe, or my higher self, but definitely I’m writing a letter of sorts to myself. This writing can be taken and turned into something for someone else, but it’s a translation process. Sure a reader could come inside my journal and read what I wrote, get it in its raw form, but I prefer that doesn’t happen, just like I prefer for nobody to read my mind. Because I enjoy the art of censoring  my own self and deciding what exactly others are given access to.

When I write, here, I imagine an audience of faceless other moms who might stumble across my words. I forget that, at this point, there are 300 something ‘followers,’ and that the people I know who actually follow along are people I really know in real life. I rarely think of them when I put words down on the page, though, and think that blogging is much like journalling, but with that added little censor or self-filter that wouldn’t happen with a pen-to-paper journal.

The thought of writing, though…really writing, like my favorite dashboard saints do, is daunting. Who is THAT audience? When JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter, she had an audience in mind, right? She imagined young people reading her story. I doubt she thought it’d be as popular with adults, but I imagine she had some sort of reader in mind. C.S. Lewis is said to have created his stories for a young child in his life. He wrote the stories down for her, and they could relate to others. But who is my audience? Who am I writing these (yet to be written) stories/memories/vignettes for? If I wrote a book, who would it be for?

The further I get away from the overwhelming life changing feeling of the first few months/years of motherhood, the less I feel inclined to write to other struggling moms as my audience. My thoughts and experiences and feelings and memories cannot be boxed into that mommy-blogging idea.

The other day I posted on Facebook that I wanted a typewriter. I know it’s merely fantasy, but it’s this idea that I would type (and thus eliminate the pen-to-paper journalling feeling, skipping toward a less censored self appearing), without the instant publishability of a blog post, without the distraction of being online and in-touch to the internet world. I don’t seem to have the self-control to just type in a word document on the computer, without getting onto Facebook or WordPress. Maybe it’d feel like the accountability, to myself, of writing with fewer distractions and instant gratification. Or maybe it’s just a pipe dream.

Take the Edge Off

In class I have my students learn about their procrastination styles, and one of them, The Dreamer, appeals to me, especially as far as writing goes. The Dreamer is a type of procrastinator that spends most of their time dreaming about a project, and rarely even starting (let alone finishing) the project. I ask the question to my students, “anyone here want to write a book?” Hands sometimes raise and then I say, “but do you actually want to sit down and WRITE that book? Or do you just want it to appear.”

That’s when the class laughs, because typically my merry bunch of high school dropouts are filled with The Dreamer affliction. They’ve wanted things to happen, but haven’t quite gotten around to doing those things. Because other, cooler, things have gotten in the way. The moment takes precedent over the future self, which wants to have written a book.

While the class is comprised of all the other types of procrastination styles (taken from It’s About Time: The Six Styles of Procrastination and How to Overcome Them), I find that The Dreamer category is usually the largest. And it’s something I’ve been thinking about for quite awhile, even talking with bestie Ruth about it. Because on good days I think about the things that I want to write, the stories I want to tell, and while I’m not sure fiction lives in me, I’m certain that I have enough material for a book. Now whether I have an audience or not remains to be seen, but can’t be seen if I never even write. And I wonder about how living in 2014 affects our ability to get things done. Because blogging, a form of writing, is an instant form of gratification. I can write, not edit if I like, and send this out to at least 345 people who are currently subscribed (though based on readership numbers, only 10 or so ever actually read this. So there’s that).

Blogging takes the edge off. It’s like posting a picture to facebook for some likes but not taking the time to go out to coffee and get ‘likes’ in person. It’s like eating a power bar instead of a meal. Am I a writer who takes the edge off of that desire to have written a book. I’m a writer who thinks about writing, but rarely ever sits down to write, especially not intentionally write something with a direction of book attached to it. A blogger I can safely say I am, but a writer? And I wonder, if the pressure built up enough, and I didn’t take the edge off through blogging, would I sit down and actually WRITE?