“I’m not a failure, I swear. I wish you could see me from over there.”

-Rilo Kiley-

It’s very easy to judge a picture when you only have one angle. In this picture (above) it looks very much like I am terrible at parking. It looks like my car is ripe to be keyed or dented by the car next to me, angrily shoving its door into mine in a show of protest for my poor parking skills. If I saw someone parked like this, I would most certainly have a few choice words to say. I would make fun of them. I would shake my head and bemoan the state of the world. I would be up on my high horse about this idiot’s parking job.

But, sometimes there is more to the story. Maybe before you pulled up next to this idiot, parked so cavalierly crooked, there had been another car parked in a way that made this park job the only possible choice. And then that car left before you arrived.

Maybe a gang of kids had been playing in the next parking spot over and this driver was trying not to murder any of them but still needed to park and get wine for a party tomorrow and she was going to be back out in 3 minutes before she inconvenienced anyone else.

Maybe whomever painted the freaking lines on this particular parking lot did so in such a way that made it absolutely impossible for the person who ended up parking in this spot to look good from all angles if they parked there. That driver would have to just settle for looking good to only 50% of the people driving by. She had to take her chances, and hope that the right people saw she really tried to park correctly. She really did try to line everything up, be out of everyone else’s way, and park as accurately as she could.

But it didn’t matter. Because of how the lines were already drawn, long before she got there, she was always going to look like a selfish, bad-parking, idiot to a lot of people.

Luckily, there would still be some other drivers, other people, who only saw her from the better angle, and thought she was okay. She was always going to be okay in their eyes, despite what was going on with the lines drawn from the other side.

Still, others would see the entire picture and shrug. Say she did the best she could between the lines she was given. Give her the benefit of the doubt despite seeing her failures and successes all at once.


“And if I had an audience
I’d ask them to leave.
How can I give them what I can’t receive?
How can I pray, when I just don’t believe?”
~Slow by The Fratellis

The audience is probably the main character of your story and you don’t even know it. They are the catalyst to every action, the skewed mirror reflecting every move you make. They create the continuous feedback loop informing your every move or stall.

Maybe your audience is your family. Maybe your friends and co-workers. Maybe you have an actual audience, sitting in seats or dancing in aisles while they listen to you sing, read, speak, preach, or pray. Maybe your audience consists of the people who parade through your home judging your photo galleries on the all, or your reading collection on the book shelves.

Maybe you aren’t even sure who your audience consists of, maybe it has taken on a mind of its own–become an anonymous blob of judgment and fear rendering you paralyzed because you can’t tell who is there for support and who is there to spy on, exploit, or enrage you.

I think I wrote more authentically when I knew only three or four people were actually reading what I wrote. I think I sang more earnestly when I was only singing in church. For some of us, the audience we attract by being “ourselves” turns us against “ourselves.” We don’t know what to do with it. Even on a small scale.

I mean, look. I am not famous, by any means. I only have 1400+ followers and for the last year and a half, I didn’t know what to do with that. It’s easy to write for an audience when they’re anonymous. It’s a lot harder to write honestly when you know you may run into Suzie Q. (your mom’s former best friend’s niece’s, dog-walker’s Godmother) at the grocery store and now she knows things about you that you absolutely NEVER would have told her in passing or even over a bottle of wine. Because you falsely believed there was a wall between Writers and Audience that would keep you safe from in-person confrontation or judgment. Or, because you believed you weren’t on anyone’s radar to begin with, and that your Main Character (The Audience) would never actually appear for a table read.

Then, they do.

And the anonymous readers, when you look into it, are really fine. Because they probably aren’t even really reading your writing, and even if they are, they are doing it for reasons that have absolutely fuck-all to do with you as a writer or a person. So you can let those go, you can move on without worrying about the anonymous followers/readers.

BUT. But… the thing “they” don’t tell you, is that… the bigger number of anonymous followers you have, the bigger number of NON-anonymous followers as well.

It’s easy to write for an audience when your life is going well, or hilariously wrong.

It’s a lot harder to write freely when your life isn’t funny. When your life is full of doubts and karmic retribution and chaos. When you know your aunt who doesn’t believe in divorce might be reading your blog entry about how amazing it is to be single after 20 years of marriage. Or when you know that people who were rooting for you to be the beacon of truth and grace and perfection, find out you are really just human after all.

It’s hard to get to know your audience and then, subsequently, write what they want to read. But you have to do it.

The audience is the main character, after all.