I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Professionalism counts when it comes to writing. Which includes valuing your audience – however small.
A little anecdote. Back in the late ’90s, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I went to a show by a local singer-songwriter-actress in a small venue – a public bar. Even then it wasn’t crowded. Maybe a dozen people? The performer emerged and began the show. Let’s say it was a personalised experience.
About half way through, a group suddenly piled in, tripling the audience. What did the entertainer do? She stopped the show, re-introduced herself to the newcomers – and started the show again. For them.
In that one step she lost all my respect for her professionalism. The old audience didn’t count. Did they?
A few years later, I was part of a panel discussing writing in the National Library auditorium in New Zealand – a venue that might seat 500. The event hadn’t been well promoted and the panel just about outnumbered the audience. One of the other panellists called everybody down to the front. ‘We should all go to the pub,’ he said ‘discuss things round a table.’ He was only being slightly hyperbolic.
Actually we carried on at that venue. And everybody had a good time.
It’s true of writers, too. We have to value the audience, no matter how large or small. And one of the joys of writing – for me at least – is exploring new territories and, maybe, drawing a new audience in the process. But that doesn’t mean abandoning the old audience half way – it means finding ways of respecting their interest, earning their respect in turn.
If you do that, they’ll likely follow you into your new direction – even as you draw in a new audience.
It’s professional. Which, as we know, is one of the keys to success in writing – as it is in any field.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2014
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