Thursday, May 22, 2008

a case for ignoring audience

So, I just read last night's post...
Stink bomb.

Dead skunks stink less than that post.

Why? I was trying too hard, man. I was thinking too much of my audience and not enough about what I wanted to say. I was thinking, oh, let me write something warm and meaningful and full of sentiment, something dripping w/ pathos that will move my readers. Let me write something good.

I was trying to justify using this space as the forum to write about what was in essence a kick-ass concert. Because I did have something to say. I should have just come out and said it. If I could, I would do it completely different. For example, in an email to a friend this morning, I wrote this: I feel like I've been up all night partying, and in a sense I was, just w/out all the bad stuff. High on love, as they say. If you want to go to a concert to see the best musicians and the best music performed to perfection, go see Brian Wilson perform Smile of Pet Sounds. If you want to have *fun* however, go see Duran Duran. This is not to say that Duran lacks musicianship or good music. Brian Wilson is to be appreciated by sitting back and entering the musical experience. Duran Duran is to be experienced by getting on your feet, dancing, singing, screaming, the whole nine yards. I don't know how anyone can sit through a Duran Duran concert and not move.

Better, yes? I wasn't thinking about which words to choose, etc. It was just conversation. It was honest. Not that last night's post wasn't honest. It was a forced honesty, though.

Incidentally, if you want to read a good blog, go to and read the band blogs. It's really fascinating to see the daily life of a pop star-musician who's been around as long as they have, writing about performing in places I could only dream of visiting: Jakarta, Korea, Hong Kong, Costa Rica, etc. They're very detailed (good writers, those guys...) and fun, and fandom really is a phenomena when you have such a one-sided intimacy w/ someone who doesn't know you exist. I mean, there I was waving my hands in the air all night last night, and it occurred to me that I was waving to them. A kind of "hey, I'm back here!" so that they can squint and go, "is that Elisa back there? Wasn't she in New York last time?"


My point being that sometimes ignoring your audience produces better writing. If you want to read an excellent article about this, go to JSTOR (or Google Scholar, maybe) and find Peter Elbow's "Closing My Eyes as I Speak: An Argument for Ignoring Audience" (hence my cribbed title).

In the meantime, I'm going to go to my other blog, the secret one, and write a blog entry about the concert that would make John Taylor proud. If only.


TS said...

Love it.... you saying ignore the audience once and a while! Do my eyes deceive me? Actually, I found that I genrally do ignore my audience during the free write, and then put them back into consideration during the drafting process. Oh, and John Taylor... who would have known? :)

The Purple Panda said...

You got it right... I think you would actually really like that Elbow article and find it interesting (you might want to skip over some of the more theoretical stuff) -- and one of the things he advocates is to do what you do in terms of freewriting, which is something I do as well. And I wish it's something I'd talked about more, when it's ok to not think about audience (hindsight is the worst!)

And weren't you there when I disclosed my stash of teenage stories about running off w/ John Taylor? (I'm postive it was your class...) You should see the wallpaper on my laptop!! Sometimes we just don't grow up...

MitMoi said...

I don't think your last post stunk. I'm not a Duran Duran fan, but totally "got" how much it meant for you to be there - and what they meant to you as a young woman.

This thing about audience. I dunno. If you're writing for "us" - the faceless - to enjoy something or share a memory with you - then you're doing fine.

If you want every post to be a "teaching moment" - then what was THIS lesson? That writing is important - it gave you a life-raft during a difficult time? Got that too.

I say relax when you write to us. If you have a lesson in mind - state so up front. Let your story illustrate it. If you don't have a lesson or tip - THAT'S OK TOO.

[/ unasked for opinion]

ps: I hate to see you beat yourself up so much about "us" and those who are reading your blog.

The Purple Panda said...

thanks, Mit. That's my lifelong lesson, I think -- it wasn't until just recently that I'd discovered what a perfectionist I was. I used to think that perfectionists were overachievers and color-coded their entire life. Not so.

The irony, of course, is that I offer similar advice as yours to my students who worry about "getting it right." And I couldn't agree w/ you more about letting go and not worrying so much about youz guyz. What I do, and what I intend this blog to be, to a degree, is autobiographical. The late Donald Murray often wrote about how when we read someone else's story, we write our own. My readers may not be Duran fans, but I'm willing someone walked away remembering their first concert, or being a Dead head, thought about their own life boats.

Well done, mate-- I bow to you!