Writing Roots: Audience Adjustment

Christina KatzMy mother was the first audience for my writing. I was young, maybe seven or eight, and I’d written my first poem, quaintly titled, “The Girl with a Curl.” I ripped my penciled page out of its memo pad and trotted downstairs to find my mom. I’ll spare you the actual poem, but suffice it to say my mother was willing to interrupt her dusting to be my first listener. Or should I say victim?

Amazingly, my mother whooped with delight. Now perhaps you saw that coming, but whooping was not typical behavior for my mother. So, I was impressed. I had cracked her up. She’d laughed her head off. How did I do it? I was hooked.

Time and feeble writing attempts ambled on. Despite the positive impact I’d made on that first audience, my success rate from there was fairly inconsistent. For one thing, I hoarded my writing all through junior high and high school. A couple pieces were published in the school literary journal but I would have flushed with embarrassment if anyone had mentioned them. Luckily, no one did. Phew!

In college, everyone else in my creative writing class-the class where I was sure I would find my tribe-wrote like one of the male literary icons we studied, while my writing sounded like sentimental drivel. I was icon-less. What a bummer that was at the time and how embarrassed I was of my work.

In graduate school, my perception of my writing alternated between flights of low self-esteem and overblown ego. When my writing was praised, I was oblivious. “Really, you think it’s okay?” When it was verging on terrible, I would become superhumanly attached to it.

But, on the upside, in graduate school, the significance of audience was burned into our brains by the workshop method used there. I suppose, that’s why I spread the gospel of audience today. I’ve been converted.

If you’d asked me what caused the communication gap with my various audiences in the past, I’d say that before, with the exception of my mother, I’d had trouble trusting them because of my self-consciousness. Which is another way of saying that I struggled with letting go of my writing. I didn’t know how to get out of the way and put my audience’s needs first.

What I’ve learned, ultimately, is that it’s important for me to manage my creative process, but eventually no matter what I’m working on, I have to dedicate the final draft to the intended audience. And when I step out of the way and let go, it’s a huge relief. Worth all of the work (and angst) that lead up to it.

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Christina Katz, author of Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids, is working on her second book for Writer’s Digest Books, Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow an Author Platform. She has also written over two hundred articles for magazines, newspapers, and online publications and has appeared on “Good Morning America.” Christina is a popular writing instructor who has taught hundreds of writers over the past seven years. She blogs daily at The Writer Mama Riffs and is publisher and editor of two zines, Writers on the Rise and The Writer Mama. More at http://www.thewritermama.com/.

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  • This Blog Moving to ChristinaKatz.com as of December 30, 2009… December 27, 2009
    We’re moving! Writers on the Rise archives have been here for years. I hope that WordPress will let the archive live on for a good long time. However, it’s time to move on, bittersweet as change may be. Please come and find me at my new digs: http://christinakatz.com. And while we’re both thinking of it, […]
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