I write for myself primarily. But, I place my writing here, where it can be encountered, so I must have some explanation of what I think is happening on the other end of this process - the reader and their reading of my work.
I have a very strong sense in me of the anonymous audience. It is interesting to note, that in public performance, the artist (not to say that I am one) must confront their audience, perhaps having to hate them, suffer them, and worse, produce for them, even pander to them.
These include the drunks yelling requests for their favorite pop song to a musician playing original work, the snobs watching the actor because it is this seasons "thing to do", those who appear to be incapable of understanding the slightest sublety woven beneath the surface of what they consume so rabidly. This is not a condemnation of all live audiences by any means, it is more a distillation of the difficulty I see performers having coming to terms with the people who come to see them - who are not necessarily "their" audience.
The demands of those present that you please them, and right now, can drown the sensitivity required to actually generate something of value to others.
I have spent a few years playing some of my music, solo, in a couple of open mike situations. For me it was practice in the terrifyingly new arena of getting up in front of people and playing and struggling to do something resembling singing. I knew they were not "my" audience, that these were not the people who would choose to read my little essays, or consciously take the trouble to start to enjoy my music. This did not bother me, I would do my three songs, thank them, and get out of the way.
Occasionally there would be somebody who was enjoying on some level what I did - in fact, I can thank all of them right now - to the two women who were humming the melody of "Moonlight" one time after I got off the stage, to the young man who wanted to actually discuss some of the ideas in the lyrics of "Believe", and to the drummer who actually wanted to play some of my things with me based on watching me play them... you were the reward I did not expect, and I truly appreciate the part of yourself you gave in order to let me share. Thank you for the pleasure of knowing I reached someone, somehow.
When the work one produces is in a published form, such as the written word or recorded music, in a mass media society such as ours, the audience takes on a new dimension. They can be anonymous - they are unknown to me, whether they enjoy or hate my work, it is purely on their terms that they can take it, even though it was purely on my terms I produced it.
So who exactly are "my" audience? The people who think about the same sorts of things as I do, I suppose. The people who take the offer of another opinion or version of the truth or what it might be and roll it around in their mind, considering it, modifying and adapting it to their needs and experience, people a bit like me. I would also like to think that at some level, everyone is my audience. It would flatter me to think that anyone could come here and get something of interest or of value, to themselves, to leave glad that they came, perhaps even wanting to give something back.
A bored kid in some town I've never heard of might have stumbled across something I wrote on the internet, and it may make them feel less alone. It might inspire them to write. They might spend years arguing my ideas down until they are at peace with them, and in the process create the furnace in which their own true self begins to be forged. They might just have a laugh at what I thought was important enough to stick in front of other people.
Someone somewhere may become a fan of my music, listen to my record several times a day, someone I have never met and perhaps never will. There may only be a few people who would ever actually enjoy my music, but that does not matter. So long as it brings me pleasure to create and then to be my own audience, and so long as the ones looking for it can find it, the system is working.
Having said this, it is obvious I do not create in a vacuum. I know some of what went before me, and I know much will come after. I also know there is probably someone out there who will read what I write. Those people, you, are present in my mind at various stages of the process. This will vary - sometimes I am writing directly to that lonely kid in the middle of nowhere. Sometimes I am writing to correct or explain or embellish on something else I have written, to add to the level of understanding my thoughts the regular reader might slowly learn to enjoy. Sometimes I am writing because of a status quo or conventional wisdom I find repulsive, and I want to put my feeble counter-vision into words, so I can feel like I stood up and shouted "this is wrong!"
I think my best work is when I am not so reactionary though, but when I come up with an idea I want to flesh out and share, to shout "this is right!" These are the ideas that build on the past and will serve at least me in the future. They are my footsteps in the sand. And if you find something for yourself in following their fading traces you are welcome to them -
© Huw Powell