This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the Pasadena Festival of Women Authors. It’s the forth time I’ve gone and once again I walked away feeling inspired. (You can read about previous years here and here).
Aja Gabel’s “The Ensemble”
This year, in the breakout sessions where authors speak to smaller groups, I followed Aja Gable to hear her talk about her debut “The Ensemble.” It’s an expertly crafted book, about “four young friends navigating the cutthroat world of classical music and their complex relationships with each other, as ambition, passion, and love intertwine over the course of their lives.”
In her talk, she mentioned that she didn’t truly excel at writing until she stopped thinking about the fact that it would go out into the world. She had to forget her audience and just write for herself.
What About The Audience?
This caught my attention, because aspiring writers are often told the exact opposite – that we should think about who we are writing for. I’ve even heard people say that you should picture a specific reader as you write.
So when the floor opened up to questions my hand flew up like Hermione Granger’s. I asked her about how her experience contrasted with what I had heard so many times and I really liked her answer.
She said that when she is getting a story down, drafting the first pages, she has to just write for herself. That’s where the magic happens, but then, when she’s editing, she said that’s when she stops to consider “does this make sense to someone who’s not in my head.”
Writing For Ourselves
I love that. Because she isn’t thinking “will my audience like this.” Even when she does consider her audience, it’s only in terms of “will they understand what I’m trying to impart.” She’s not writing to please anyone, and so her story comes across with authority and style. It’s lovely.
It was reassuring to hear this from a writer whose book I so admired. Because when we get caught up in the business side of writing, it can be easy to hold up ideas and say “will people like this?” Ug.
I’m a firm believer of the idea that none of us are all that unique. If I write a story that I love, simply because I’m enamored with it (considering my audience only insofar as to make sure they’ll understand what I’m trying to say), there is a statistical portion of the population that shares my interests and will love my story as much as I do.
By staying true to my love for a story I am, by default, considering my audience. Ultimately they are the ones who will benefit from me writing what I am compelled to write.
What are your thoughts around this idea? Do you consider your audience when you write? To what extent? Would love to hear other perspectives on this.