I once gave one of my books to a friend to edit. He returned the book back to me fully edited. When I asked him how he liked the book, he couldn’t tell me much about it.
His editing mindset was not the same as his reading mindset, and so he couldn’t enjoy the book or even assess its enjoyability. It got me thinking about how important it is for my potential reader to be in the right mindset before encountering my work. Too often I think I expect that if I put a good quality product in front of someone, they’ll automatically appreciate and want to read it.
It seems like common sense that you’d want your reader to be ready before offering them your writing. I think perhaps today that common sense has been lost and perhaps our “anything anytime” marketplace is to blame. And the most obvious example of this is porn.
I find it ironic that the object of porn is to prepare the viewer for arousal, and yet the characters in the films themselves do not really prepare for it. They are ready to go, always, and we as viewers may begin to learn to expect that kind of behavior in our sexual partners. In real life, if someone goes into real life sex expecting their partner to always be ready, it’s going to create discomfort, unrealistic expectations and heartache.
We may have begun to abstract this idea of “always ready” into every aspect of our lives. In the creative world, I think it can affect the way we interact with our audience. This can also lead to discomfort, unrealistic expectations and heartache.
Although it seems like the world is “always ready” for our books, our art, our songs because they’re always available online, this is rather a “porn” way of looking at things. It doesn’t matter how good your material is if the audience isn’t in a receptive place. The smart creators will know this and consider the way they offer it to their audience.
In the old days you could only hear music and stories around the campfire or in the mead hall. You thought about the time for stories all day long and you were ready when it happened. Even today we still look forward to concerts, think about them for weeks or months, and we feel our anticipation grow as we wait in the venue for the lights to go down. When we offer our material, we have to present them at the right time, in the right place.
If I hand my book to people on the street, they may smile and take it, but it’s likely going straight into the garbage can. If I hand my book to people at a writer’s convention, it may last a little longer. If I hand my book to people at my book signing, they’re much more likely to keep it, and read it.
This is hard work, harder maybe than writing the book itself! Getting to people who are receptive takes time, money and energy. Not to mention that other creators are competing with you for those limited venues, and the audience can only take in so much material.
Still, the alternative is to constantly throw your best work out there and be mystified again and again at the crickets chirping, the seeming indifference, the failure. I would argue that a lot of mediocre material succeeds brilliantly because the creators have their material in places where the audience is ready. Bad books sell well at the airport!
Were you ready to get this info?
Adam Cole is a Jazz Musician Who Writes Books. Fantasy author, music educator and performer, Adam chats weekly on the subject of listening, creativity and living your best life. To take a quiz on what kind of music warrior you are, please visit www.mymusicfriend.net