Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Audiences

As a general rule, you are garrulous when it comes to concepts and ideas, with the pleasing result that your acceptance rate is above ordinary, finding nods of agreement or even a more full-body response of approval.  The other part of that dialectic brings moments of silence, when there is no response at all to your ideas or observations.  

Even with the high rate of acceptance you have among associates or even within yourself, these moments are moments of pained silence for you.  In the deepest vaults of your heart, you want laughter as a response.  A guffaw will do, but so will a snicker.  Laughter, even if it is directed at you, is the signal to you that something has been caught out, perhaps preening or inflating, perhaps worse yet, signs of the moral high ground being taken.

Do not forget the times you've found yourself laughing at the mischief emerging as you compose.  These are special, memorable times.  When you are at the cusp of laughter, your fingers scarcely able to move the pen fast enough to keep up with the flow of words, or to hit the correct or near to correct keys on the keyboard, these moments, without interrupting you, suggest that you've risen a plateau or two above anger and into the fluid ease of the medium you most enjoy, humor.

Ah, but no laughter, no response, nothing but silence; these are not good signs to you.  These are signs that there is some clogging within your process.  Impressions cannot get in, much less can they come out.  

The late mystery and suspense novelist, Dennis Lynds, once told you of a time when he'd been sent out on a book tour to promote his most recent mystery.  He'd been scheduled in a bookstore in Tucson, Arizona, where past appearances had gone quite well for him.  At this reading, there was only one other person,  Dennis spoke of being embarrassed for the man, realizing he was the only one and, thus, more than a little eager to get away, but fearful of doing so lest he appear rude.  

Dennis, being Dennis, began to tell the man of the project he was working on next.  Soon, another customer in the bookstore heard, came over to listen, asked if he might sit.  The more Dennis spoke, the more customers came over to join, until passersby on the sidewalk, seeing the group, entered to see what was going on.

You have had similar situations, including one in which a lone woman was the only person, and she began a conversation on her iPhone.  The takeaway from Dennis' story and your own similar experiences is the image of Tom Sawyer and the task set him of whitewashing the fence, and his turning it into a profitable experience.  Earlier in your career, such dismal showings as opposed to full, lively rooms, would have meant a sense of personal disaster.  

You will be up later tonight than you'd planned because nothing is coming.  In a way reminiscent of throat tickles and sneezes you don't link to some allergy, you understand that the fact of nothing coming is the ironic announcement of something indeed coming.

No audience or a scant one, on its face, was at one time bad news, and as such remained bad news until you were able to learn a vital awareness as it relates to audiences. 

After a morning class, much of the day has been devoted to reading a door-stopper of a book, over eleven hundred pages covering the seven-hundred-year history of the novel, breaking it down into intriguing chapters of the sort you most admire, in which names of authors are linked with other authors you'd least suspect.  This is yet another suggestion that something is coming, some connection some of your editorial committee might not think ready to go to a vote just yet.

He who writes to and for the audience is not the altruist he believes himself to be, rather someone who puts himself at the mercy of audience, whose heart may be broken at the slightest whim of the audience.  He who writes, however well, is not doing the audience the favor he might think.

There is an audience dynamic and a writer/performer dynamic, the common denominator being respect and willingness to listen to ambient truths, which are sometimes mistaken for mosquitoes or houseflies.

If you stay at it long enough, for this night and, indeed, this life, you may yet reach the cadence where mischief appears, things begin to seem amusing, building toward a crescendo of audacity.  Whether the auditorium is filled, completely empty, or only middling filled, you are there to perform; you are there to play.  If there is no one there, you play for yourself as though the room were filled.  If the room is filled, you play for them as though you were playing for yourself.


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