Thursday, September 13, 2012

Audience Awareness vs. Meditation

I’m reading Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones again this week. I have used the book several times when teaching an introductory creative writing class because it seems to help kids step from academic writing to a more free-flowing setting.

It is always interesting to me to grapple with Goldberg’s philosophy, which is close to writing-as-meditation. She stresses breaking down barriers and letting your feelings pour out on the page. “There is nothing to writing,” Thomas Wolfe said. “All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” Is it that easy?

Not usually. Not for me anyway. What of revision? Although helpful, Goldberg can take one only so far. There are two types of writing, personal and public. If you are writing for publication, you need to go beyond your feelings. Audience awareness is vital.

All of which leads to a central conflict: Who are you writing for, your audience or yourself? Can you have both?

I find myself going back to this inspirational quote by James Lee Burke: “You write it a day at a time and let God be the measure of its worth. You let the score take care of itself; and most important, you never lose faith in your vision… A real writer is driven both by obsession and a secret vanity, namely that he has a perfect vision of the truth, in the same way that the camera lens can close perfectly on a piece of the external world.”

We all try to honor our own visions while trying to entertain others. Finding the balance, therefore, is one of the keys to longevity.


Hannah Dennison said...

Thanks for sharing that inspiration quote - I love it.

Charlotte Hinger said...

I'm re-reading Jack Bickham's Scene and Structure. It's just excellent.