When I took my first writing class as a graduate student to become a secondary English teacher, we had a writing workshop and shared bits of stories/essays/poetry each week. One question that I was asked by my peers, again and again, was “Who is your audience?”
It was a question I never quite knew how to answer. Who will read this? Whose eyes do I imagine musing over the words I’ve brought to the table? I still don’t know. Lately, though, the word audience has given me pause. What occurred to me is that audience has a connotation of performance, of polish, and of product. When I play my cello with the orchestra, I cannot even see the audience, the footlights are so bright. Perhaps I know one or two people who I’ve arm-twisted into coming to the concert, but mostly, I have no idea who fills the seats. We wear our orchestra black and play our best. The audience comes for a night out, hoping to experience a different world for a few hours. At the end, they clap, we bow, and we all go our separate ways. There is a willing suspension of disbelief for all parties, and we adopt, for an evening, time-honoured rules and formality.
But for me, my most natural writing has never been a formal affair. I think I tripped over the idea of audience last September, when I left the forest in search of characters who would tell me their stories. I have found plenty, and I am so enjoying their presence and perspectives. And from my wanderings over the past few months, the word that comes to mind in place of audience is community. Who is my online community? Well, let me tell you…
I’m drawn to blogs/websites where people use the space to wonder aloud, to be unapologetically themselves, to share struggles, insights, and triumphs. I enjoy the immediacy and directness of many of these writers. Reading some of the blogs is like talking with a good friend over coffee or lunch, finding things to laugh about in the moment and reflect on more carefully later. Here are a few places where I’ve been listening in the periphery.
- Writer Unboxed
- Many speakers from The World’s Biggest Summit
- Notes from the Slushpile
- 37 Days
- The Fluent Self
- The Goddess Guidebook
- The Variegated Life
With the exception of Rachael at the Variegated Life, I don’t know any of these writers personally. Yet somehow, each offers a genuine warmth and welcome. The posts are frequently funny, honest, and compelling – just what I would hope for in a community. I highly recommend them.
My online community is also you, who stop for a moment to read these posts, and other favourite blogs, and then move on, returning to your busy lives and day-to-day happenings. Why not see the internet as a place of potential peace, of far-flung friendships, of serendipitous connections?
So, as I return to posting, I’m hoping to join and add to this sense of community I’ve tried to describe above. It is a shift, from seeking an audience to building community. My hope is that you will feel welcome here, the way you feel welcome when walking into a friend’s kitchen through the side door. On Fridays, at the end of a busy week, let’s meet here and have a cup of tea. I’ll look forward to seeing you. Incidentally, I always play my best at concerts when I know that members of my community are in the audience. Perhaps the same will be true for writing.