I was talking with a friend over some street food on a sticky night in Northern Thailand. He described something he had been through which was all too familiar to me as a writer.
He had reach a point where he was creating ferociously - writing every day and coming up with seemingly endless content, all of which he kept in a private folder on his laptop. So great was his creativity that he decided he wanted to share his work.
So, he started posting his writings up onto Facebook. At first it was a great success. He posted up one article from his private folder each day and continued producing more content.
Then, after a few days had gone on like this he started looking at the reactions to his posts. He noticed familiar names popping up in the list of people who had liked his post - a friend from high school, a woman who he admired, a mentor whose opinion he valued. He was initially excited to see that his work was getting all this attention.
But the next day, as he approached the page to lay down a sentence, doubts filled his mind. What will my mentor think if I write this? Is my crush going to realize this is about my ex? Does it matter?
The same laptop screen where he’d succeeded as a solitary scribe had transformed into a terrifying soapbox from which each word had rippling implications stifling their own expression. Most importantly - he now felt pressure to be good. There was no longer room for crufty passages or awkward phrasing.
For a month, the creative faucet ran dry. The words accumulating on his laptop felt forced and stunted. Nothing was reaching a finished form, and nothing was shared.
Frustrated with the creative block, he finally resolved that he wouldn’t write with the intention of sharing. It was just going to be for him. He sipped strong coffee and found his voice again, filing away thoughtful anecdotes to the private folder on his laptop.
Audiences are not the enemy of the writer - but they must be understood. It’s important for us as writers to own how our audiences can coax the best from us - rather than letting the expectations of our audience own our creative process.
We have a bit of a mental trick to play on ourselves. If we can separate the intended audience during the creation stage from the eventual exposure audience, we might actually get that wonderfully imperfect piece out to our readers.
We toil over a heartfelt love poem for the person we’ve been dreaming about. When we find out they got back together with their ex before we had a chance to press send, we use it as the “about me" text in our OkCupid profile.