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January 23, 2008

little homunculi

:: UPDATE ::

Here are some responses that i've gotten from people i solicited by email: thoughts on audience


I was wondering if you could do me a little favor. The favor involves a tiny bit of introspection and the writing of a short paragraph.

Here’s what I’m interested in:

When you make things with an audience in mind, do you have internal representations of that audience to help guide you in the process? Are you in dialogue with a cast of proto-audience members that somehow represent different facets of your perceived audience? Are there little homunculi that provide editorial voices different from your own? Do you interact with them verbally or do you bounce things off of some sort of an emotional surface? Did some sort of averaging form them or were they inspired by particular moments of feedback? Do they have a shape? How would you describe their points of view? What do they look like? Do they have names? Are there ones you trust more than others? Are there ones you avoid?

I’ve become fascinated by the initial creative process behind creating work for largely unseen and unknown audiences. Personally I have identified a cast of characters in my head that are constantly evolving, but play a very real role in my work. I'll try and write about them later.

I certainly don’t expect you to answer all of the above questions, but perhaps you could muse for a paragraph or two.

I will be compiling the answers and publishing them online with you permission.

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Comments (86)

Much stuff on my blog has been just rants. However I recently experimented with random snippets of conversations as a fun thing to play with, it put me in a creative frame of mind. However in this instance there were only the characters involved in the conversation I was the audience, they started evolving in my imagination, but I was always a separate observer, and the process involved a "no, rewind, lets try that a little differently", each time tweaking and getting things they way I want them.

Posted by: Thriftcriminal at January 23, 2008 2:46 PM

Hi Ze -
What an interesting question...
I find that whenever I'm trying to figure out exactly what it is I'm trying to say with whatever I'm making, that the little homunculi have to be completely banished from the birthing room, because they are a critical bunch and tend to make comments about how ridiculous I look with my feet in the stirrups bearing down in agony, and then curl their lip at the thing all covered in blood and viscous material when it's presented to them.
Oh sure, they can hold it and coo over it when I'm done, and tell me what a pretty baby I have after it's all cleaned up, but they will defeat me every time when I'm getting started.
Who are they? They are my family history and upbringing, telling me what I "shouldn't" write down or use creatively. They are the ex-boyfriend who dumped me for someone smarter with bigger tits, whom I'd like to make as sorry as possible for rejecting me. They are friends I admire and want to impress. They are my culture - my favorite movies and plays and books and TV shows that I want to rub elbows with. All deadly, because once I start worrying about them, I've lost track of that thing that David Lynch says starts deep in my dreams and nightmares that are so deeply personal.
If there's one actual audience member I feel safe with, it's a gay male friend I had a long time ago who was "in love" with me. He was so certain that I was completely original and amazing that I knew I could never disappoint him. Very often I begin writing as if in a letter to him, revealing to him all my current and best secrets, no matter how ugly or strange. This seems to help me keep my work personal, and therefore most effective. If I start with his unconditional acceptance, I can at least get a first draft down. Then the second draft is to make it as entertaining as possible for him, because his standards were very high and I liked making him laugh.
Hope that's helpful.

Posted by: Brynn at January 23, 2008 3:23 PM

I started out as a writer. I make videos and write/perform songs, and used to teach and still occasionally do readings -- which all files under performance art -- and sometimes build sculptures, or pull some silkscreen prints, or do a little layout/graphic design, or code an application. The activity doesn't matter, because my method in all creative endeavors is modeled after the one I developed for writing, which is to break it into two stages: Making and Editing.

During the Making stage, I don't think about anyone, not an audience, not even myself; I just try to get inside of the thing I'm making and feel around, to figure out what it is, so that I can clear away all the parts that aren't integral, and free the thing up from the rest of the stuff of the world, in which it is encased. The first thing I ever wanted to be, when I was a little kid and learned that you had to want to be something someday, was an archeologist or paleontologist. I guess, really, this part of my method is from that part of my life, and isn't Making so much as Finding.

In the second step, when I'm Editing, it is to refine that thing I Found in the Making stage into a specific thing for a specific purpose and specific people. These people tend to include close friends and my wife, but different aspects of different creative tasks are for different folks. For example, grammar and mechanics are always for two teachers -- one from high school, the other university -- who came down on me hard, publicly, and embarrassingly, about grammatical mistakes they knew I was making out of laziness rather than ignorance. If I'm making a video, my dad is in the audience, and I'm watching him watch my facial ticks, and then I shoot another take. I sing mostly for my son, who is a year-and-a-half old, and probably the only person in the Universe who actually enjoys my singing. I code for two pals who are coders, because I want that code to be graceful and efficient, and not clunky and amateurish (hard, because I'm a rank amateur). When I'm pitching articles or stories to specific venues, I try and read some of what the editor has written, and put her front and center in that audience.

And the rest of the audience -- because it is a big audience; the house is always packed -- I'm pretty sure they are all different versions of me, younger versions, from when I used to just take things in and enjoy them or not, before I started Making things -- or Finding them -- and Editing them down into something tight and polished and perfect. A me from the days when I enjoyed a thing without wondering how it was Made, and how I could go about Making something with those tools. Most of the auditorium is cheap seats, and most of those seats are filled with cheapass, know-nothing, kid versions of me, and I'm mostly trying to keep those distractible kids entertained long enough to get to the really good part of the show. Then, they’re hooked.

Posted by: dave-o at January 23, 2008 3:25 PM

The internal representations I have of a potential audience are defintely a cast of characters, though manifesting it in words now makes them almost real (scary). They don't have names, but I can try and vividly describe them.

One guy in this audience is smart alecky, intelligent, but cynical. He catches everything and has no patience for fluffiness, but will appreciate a whole piece of work if it is clever and witty. Another is a girl who is bright and cheerful, but needs things very clearly explained to her (she's blonde). Another is a hard faced woman who is strict and no-nonsense. She will always ask, "That's great, but can you please expand on this?". Next is an old professor, a brilliant man who has done his reading and will always say "Can you back that up?" or "You got that from (insert brilliant piece of work here)". Another is a housewife who accidently stumbled upon the piece of work. It's my job to keep her enthralled. Then there is the most dangerous type, who sits on the periphery of the audience and never pipes up, so that one hardly knows she's there. She is, however, the most critical of the work because her feedback is never given, for she keeps her opinion silent and we never know what she's thinking. She's the worst. I don't trust her at all.

These characters are products of accumulated feedback and general insecurities that have arisen from presenting to a wide range of audiences. Each character represents the extremes of those people I encounter. With each piece of work presented to any audience, characters may be added, or changed, and they are particularly fierce when venturing into new territories of true audiences. Depending on the intended audience, some characters in this 'head audience' may be more valued than others.
This goes for any piece of writing, presentation, artwork, etc.

Now you've got me thinking that I need to Christen them with proper names. Or maybe they'll sit around and vote on them. Yes, let's let them figure it out on their own.

Posted by: Kimi at January 23, 2008 3:27 PM

When I produce things for work, this is who I think of. "This person is about the same age as my aunt, is college educated, but doesn't necessarily have the knowledge in the field I am talking about. She is genial and open to hearing about the topic, and is invested in hearing your point of view. Otherwise, she wouldn't be there. But she'll definitely need convincing."

When I produce written things, I do it for myself. If others like it, great. Isn't creativity coming from an inner place over the need for approval from an audience? (Isn't that the difference between an actor and a star?)

Posted by: koko at January 23, 2008 3:42 PM

This might come across as a little odd or egomaniacal, but I think I might be writing for God when I write. The strange part is I'm not sure I believe in Him yet. I'm not of the belief that He is some distinct and analytical (or judgemental) consciousness. I don't think so. I think there may be something that's even only now in the process of being born or formed. That something is something I'm a part of. You, too. I think we all are.

So do we simply bear witness to that birth? How do we inform the formative process? What's the name of that 'Uncertainty Principle'? I don't know. How to address an audience which you are a part of —I guess that's how I take your question.

I look at it in terms of honesty. There is a spirit to what is being voiced. You owe that spirit service just as you should honor any blessing. Sorry to use the religious terminology again. I don't intend to preach. I just think that language offers the best analog.

I'll leave this here for now.



Posted by: TomD at January 23, 2008 3:42 PM

mmm... yes. the little hypothetical audience in me mind is mostly an amorphous, faceless mass with a few recognisable visages. i think up ideas & experiment with them, simulating responses & stuff... the little voices in the back of your head. memories of cause & effect versus conscience.

this is so deep.

-jay was here!

Posted by: jay aoyama at January 23, 2008 3:51 PM

I take acid and talk to the gods.

Posted by: Creative Katie at January 23, 2008 3:57 PM

mmm... yes. the little hypothetical audience in me mind is mostly an amorphous, faceless mass with a few recognisable visages. i think up ideas & experiment with them, simulating responses & stuff... the little voices in the back of your head. memories of cause & effect versus conscience.

this is so deep.

-jay was here!

Posted by: jay aoyama at January 23, 2008 3:57 PM

I think I'm confused by your usage of "audience", as opposed to "clients". I work in Design / Advertising, so I do my work for clients, therefore anything and everything has to be looked at through Brand-tinted glasses. In this case, I have to think about what my presentation will mean to the audience; first the client, then the consumer audience. With a strong brand / company identity, the former should dictate the latter.

For more freeform creative projects (ie. unpaid, get my rocks off type stuff), I do it for ME. When it comes to pure art, thinking about the viewer / audience first is inhibitory, in my opinion.

Posted by: dan at January 23, 2008 4:15 PM

It really depends on the medium. If I’m writing a semi-scholarly essay, there’s a single shadowy figure in the audience: the professor/TA/whatever assigning the essay.

If it’s just creative writing—that is, telling a story for the sake of telling a story, it’s still just an audience of one—me, but it’s an uninformed me. This particular brand of me isn’t aware of any possible inside jokes that I am aware of, thus I’ll feel compelled to give more background on those kinds of things, so that uninformed me will understand them. When I’m just trying to get out a story, I’m just trying to get out the friggin’ story, and at that point I’m not worrying about a zillion other imaginary audience member’s opinions. If I did listen to those other voices, I’d lose ownership of my own story to all the little bastards out there in the audience with their own suggestions and opinions on where the story should go (even though they’re all in my head, they’re not me…you follow?).

If I’m writing on something web related like say, a blog, I do indeed have an audience I listen to. These guys are a stereotypical cross-section of the general types of people I’d expect to stumble across my blog. Some, I listen to (the audience members that can properly express themselves by speaking in complete English sentences), and some I do not (the pre-pubescent gibber-lings spewing out leet speak and saliva all over the audience members in front of them…and me). Some of these members are just different facets of my own personality (the pessimist, the optimist, the elitist prick whom I can never satisfy), and some are modeled (after a fashion) on friends and family members…and occasionally people I dislike immensely, yet grudgingly acknowledge their ability to constructively criticize me. I feel out this audience’s response to a post, but after the fact, not during the actual writing. I will stop and listen to the occasional whispered remark during, but only if it sounds exceptionally inspired.

Posted by: Steven at January 23, 2008 4:44 PM

I tend to think about 5 very specific friends when I start composing something and what they would think about what I write. In other words, I think of a group that knows me somewhat, but probably doesn't know everything about me. I find this invaluable to help my inner editor shape what I will and will not write about. It also helps in shaping what I do end up writing. Unknowingly these friends are kind of my quality control panel, I suppose. It would be amusing to get them in a room together and find out what they really think.

Posted by: theorris at January 23, 2008 5:00 PM

Since there are zero comments I'm assuming this is screened but not published. If not, oh well.

The content I create gets put on large screens inside of retail stores, but I never see the audiences or the screens. The invisible people standing over my shoulder as I make these things are pretty scrutinizing. The consumers in my brain who waltz by these screens scowl at them because someone paid for a big screen to feed promotions and features into their heads. Therefore, my primary motivation when creating work is to make the least offensive experience possible while delivering the message outlined to me by the copy editor and approved by legal. The only time I want to make "in your face" content is when people are consciously choosing to see the work based on some sort of expectation they've made about the title or thumbnail. Perhaps I am a huge pussy, but I'd like to make the people in my brain a little less unhappy as the actual retail store is making them.

Posted by: markus at January 23, 2008 5:03 PM

I initially wrote what I thought and so implicitly I was writing for a like-minded crowd who may or may not agree with me but would comprehend it. As comments and real-life meetings followed, I could personalise the "reader" in the sense that they seemed to conform to the like-minded crowd I had assumed would be the only ones interested.

This audience has expanded over time and I'm more aware of a diversity of thought and understanding but that hasn't changed my style - I don't spell everything out because I see that as patronising - I guide and let people draw conclusions. But if someone doesn't understand I make a point of responding to their comment. I hope I don't write as pompously as this makes it sound.

Posted by: John at January 23, 2008 5:17 PM

Wow, I have never wondered about these things. I will however let it stew for the rest of the day and get back to you.


Posted by: Mark Smith at January 23, 2008 5:29 PM

I find when creating works for the public I often do take on different internal characters for the purpose of self-evaluation. I've not quite gone as far as to keep a cast of recurring characters in my head that I fall back on, rather I try to imagine the target audience of my work and take on the perspective of the archetypes and stereotypes that are bound to show up. I find this method of adaptation to be the best for me anyway, because it allows for several different, situational evaluations.

You might think of it more as a boardroom than an audience. Always asking questions that might come up, keeping some of the more flowery ideas in check, and giving the staler ones some extra 'umph.'

Then of course, this versatile board can also act as a panel of American Idol judges for things such as presentations, or other types of large public performance. I'll often find myself rehearsing and answering the questions I've silently asked myself, out loud. The effect is to anticipate audience reaction, and to somewhat realistically be ready to respond.

And lastly, there are times when I just leave my non-physical, imaginary, judgmental, 1-dimensional friends at home, such as during musical performances.
The key, is mixing everything together for each situation, knowing when to make love to your audience, and when tell them to sit back and see what happens.
Self-doubt is not a bad thing, but too much of it will only serve to stifle creativity.

Posted by: Matt at January 23, 2008 5:33 PM

I see facial expressions, body language.

I hear dissent, the voice of the other point of view.

Keeping the audience in mind, visualization, self-talk and internal dialogs with composite characters, historical persons and living-breathing people I've never met but of whom I know... this is crucial to my preparation for presentations or talks.

I depend on Reason and Revelation... you know, Intelligence and Inspiration.

I mentally, emotionally and intellectually interact with my anticipated audience during composition and before public exposure.

When I have done visual art (many years ago) and when I compose fiction, my dialog is solely with myself. I judge language and flow by my own ear. I tell the story that I want to tell.

BUT, in writing of any kind I revise for clarity of expression with help from Abraham Lincoln (he tells me to talk in simple, short, Anglo-Saxon words). Winston Churchill and his black dog are with me. More recently, Seth Godin, Malcolm Gladwell and John McPhee each look over my shoulder and hint at either better communication or better prose.

And there is always someone else hanging around, waiting to see what I've produced, giving me some anxiety.

This person is a composite of a man or woman who is smart, skilled, possessed of predispositions and prejudices, but nonetheless capable sometimes of open mindedness, subject to persuasion, and not opposed to following his or her intuition. The visage of this composite person is aloof but evoking skepticism just under the surface.

Posted by: Dennis Freire at January 23, 2008 6:24 PM

Frankly, no. Although I've never made anything consumed on the scale you (Ze) have (has), aside from one or two small things, I just try to make it as good as I can so I'm satisfied with the results. If I can't enjoy it then I doubt other people will be able to either. Perhaps if I was creating something consumed by a large number of people then I would try to anticipate some of the responses, but as it stands I just try to make something I think is cool.

Posted by: Glen C. at January 23, 2008 6:30 PM

I guess my situation a little bit unique in that my audience is coming to me for instruction more than entertainment, but I view my audience . . . well, it's kind of complicated.

I am using the web to teach acoustic guitar and frailing banjo. I was taught these disciplines on the streets. I made a conscious effort to keep that in-person vibe going when I started teaching on the web - and a big part of that style of teaching is not giving a student time to talk himself or herself into coming up with an excuse not to try.

Playing the blues is easy, but having the stones to dive in and start playing the blues takes an almost superhuman leap of faith. As soon as you start doubting yourself you''ll chicken out and just go back to running scales and talking in online forums about the proper playing speed of a Robert Johnson record.

So as you teach American folk music you have to constantly throw a blend of encouragement and challenges into the lesson. This is how it's done. I know it's going to be tough at first, but I know you can do this. Then tell 'em they are doing great before you say, "Go on and work on that. Get lost and don't come back until you can do like I showed you."

So when I teach online I don't prepare the lesson or anything like that. I just go over what needs to be covered and as I am doing that I run through every possible excuse or question a student might come up with and work the solution into my lesson as I roll along.

Posted by: Patrick Costello at January 23, 2008 6:40 PM

For personal stuff (blogging, twitter), I usually try to think of a particular person in my life and write to them. I've actually found that a lot of emails I will write to someone about a news story, video, or whatever, get turned almost verbatim into blog posts.

For professional stuff (I'm a law student), I figure out the purpose of what I am writing (persuade, inform), and then make up a person to be my audience. If I'm writing a brief for court, I'll think of a judge who doesn't know much about that area of law who is very skeptical. If I'm writing an interoffice memo, I may assume a level of basic knowledge and then try to anticipate questions they may have or whatever. These imaginary audience members don't usually have a personality beyond what is needed to fill the purpose, so I don't really have a cast of characters here.

I've found that I just cannot write at all unless I'm thinking of a person, either real or imagined, as the audience. I think I need that concrete audience member so that I can empathize with them in order to get something down on the page. If I don't pick an audience before starting, I usually just end up surfing the internets instead of writing.

Posted by: John at January 23, 2008 6:57 PM

I never consider the audience when creating--I get swept up in the inspiration--the piece seems to drive itself and take over. When it fades before completion, I find myself putting a puzzle together, making the pieces need to fit the pieces I have. Then I'm left with "well, I hope they like it".

Posted by: Trey at January 23, 2008 7:11 PM

My "public audience" would probably be rather different than yours. When I create things, I don't necessarily create them with a particular audience in mind. I see everything that comes from me as a reflection of myself, and thus try to create the best possible representation of this. I attempt to make things broad enough for a variety to understand, and broad enough for multiple platforms [web, print, live/performance]...I work more with ideas than visuals. I tend to put things in writing and make it as concise as possible, then worry about audience and platform. For instance, I get my ideas on a topic down before I decide whether to make it a song, poem, video, or what have you.

Once I have my thoughts organised, then I worry about what others may think. This is when the people closest to me have the most effect in my mind. I tend to think of what the most significant people in my life [family and friends] will think about my work. Even more important than what they will think of the work is what they will think of the consequences of my work. If I put something scandalous or alienating out, I want to be sure that the people I care about won't be affected.

I'm not sure if this helps any...If I think of anything later I could possibly add more later, if you want.

Posted by: Marie at January 23, 2008 7:15 PM

It's my wife. She hardly ever gets to see, though.
Not that anyone else does either.
I can't wait to read about your imagined audience.

Thanks for all you do.

Don't publish, please.

Posted by: loganck at January 23, 2008 7:29 PM

I generally speak to either of two types of audiences:
(a) A group who is familiar with the topic and shares the same point of reference as I do. They are listening to be updated.
(b) A groups who knows nothing of the topic. They are trying to get a basic understanding.

I know that many people in the teaching profession enjoy the second type of audience, broadening their experiences. Frankly, I enjoy speaking to the first type of audience. It's comfortable. I can speak my own language, our shared jargon. In a way, however, it is also more challenging, being able to engage people who already think they know it all.

Posted by: Great Stone Face at January 23, 2008 8:32 PM

Your question reminds me a lot of the use of "personas" in technology interface design (http://www.interaction-design.org/encyclopedia/personas.html).

Personas are used during design as a representation of the people that will end up using your technology. The personas that you create are not real individuals but instead are a small number of fictional people that encapsulate the characteristics of the end users. There is value in making them as real as possible - writing little back stories, giving them names, creating hobbies for them, putting up pictures to remind you, etc.

I use personas (to varying degrees of fidelity) in my own work as a researcher of the social nature and culture of technology use.

Posted by: Gregor at January 23, 2008 9:17 PM

Check out illdoctrine's vblog about the little hater its close to what ze's after http://www.illdoctrine.com/2007/12/beating_the_little_hater.html

Posted by: famous at January 23, 2008 9:22 PM

The audience changes with the creation medium. With writing from the core, the lit type stuff, the audience is the everlasting judgment of the source alone. It takes a conscious effort to shun the minds around me to do it. Audience opinions do not matter when writing this way; their opinions will occur to them in time. It is not my business. With writing of lesser weight and more consequence (as in the three other panes of the writing window a la James Kinneavy's Theory of Discourse), audience is the most influential force. Every analogy or string of elements is placed to streamline understanding and provoke further inquiry. I do research into the experiences of potential readers when I am able in order to do this. With a clear idea of who they actually will be, the writing is targeted. With other writing like comments and fluffy stuff, there is a mix of the two. The unknown is not typically an option though. With creating a video, the audience is always some snarky negative person I must try to win over as best I can usually with some honest self-deprication. With painting the audience is the worst. It is myself. With music it's that way too. I regard audiences as antagonistic at worst and disinterested at best and every act of creation as an act of persuasive argumentation. I realize there are loving, kind and super supportive audiences, but picturing them makes me lazy and neglectful.

Every work day I have six audiences for whom I must create an intangible drive. Knowing them and their points of resistance, emotional experience and abilities is invaluable. I don't have stock characters judging, there are enough real ones.

Posted by: Boo at January 23, 2008 9:25 PM

My experiance with producing things for an audience is largely relegated to my time in my school's creative writing course where we had to produce short plays and the like to perform intfront of the rest of the class, and the year if they were good.

My process was writing a scene, worrying about it for a few days, finally showing it to some of my friends, re-writing it, showing it to my sister (infinately more intelligent than I), re-writing it, showing it to my Dad (infinately more intelligent than I), re-writing it, worrying about it for a few days, re-writing it, showing it to my friends again, re-writing it, and then finally giving up and concentrate on getting the performance right regardless of the script.

Sometimes they were good, sometimes they were bad. Sometimes I even managed to make people laugh. They were terrifying times.

Posted by: Smee at January 23, 2008 9:36 PM

I'm a writer. When I draft there is a committee, a chorus of voices in my head. The loudest voices are nay-sayers. I have to push them one-by-one into a closet and lock the door so I don't hear them anymore. When I can no longer hear them, I can write freely. When I am totally in the creative flow, I can't hear a thing. When I edit, I let some of the committee out of their closets. The loud, obnoxious, negativos have to stay inside. Sometimes they beat at the doors and try to get out and yell things like you're a fake --you'll never do this and I have to tell them to shut up, to stop, to go away. They are mean. But there are other voices, stand-ins for the audience, who I listen to when I am editing. They're very kind. They say to me things like: I don't get that, that could be clearer, you can choose a more beautiful word here, you need more here -- things like that. They're wise. I love them.

Posted by: Mary Ann at January 23, 2008 9:52 PM

When I create something I do imagine my audience, but my audience usually consists of my closest friends or relatives. During the creative process I spend a considerable amount of time imagining what the people who matter most to me will think. Its more a way to prepare myself for the criticism that I will receive (my friends are always critical) and less of a way to help myself edit my work. While editing however, I do verbalize my thoughts to myself.

Posted by: Drew at January 23, 2008 10:00 PM

The problem with the little homunculi is that they are not a respectful audience. They often talk when they should be listening. Sometimes they get in the way of the thing being made by talking too early and discouraging it from being made. ...and they never know what the hell they really want. Whenever you make stuff just for them, it often turns out to not be as good as when you make stuff without an audience in mind.

I make pots and clay sculptures. Whenever I try to make stuff that I think my audience will like and want to buy, it ends up being less successful than the work that I make to please myself. I think that's the secret...keep making work to please yourself. The one thing that audiences can sniff out is when you are being genuinely yourself.

A great book about the art making process is called "Art and Fear" by David Bayles. It's a quick read but sheds a lot of light on the creative process and the voices that artists have in their heads.

I love the reference to homunculi. It's not a word you see very often but it's perfect for this discussion.

Posted by: schmoopy43 at January 23, 2008 10:01 PM

Strangely, no, at least not when the audience is unknown. I write and make art for a college humor magazine, and though its readership certainly can't rival that of a popular website, its audience is fairly large and diverse (or as diverse as college students can be). When I write for the magazine, I primarily write for myself and next for my fellow staffers. I guess since I know what makes me and them laugh, I have a general idea of what makes the rest of the student body laugh...but they're not what I'm thinking about while I write.

I think it's probably difficult to make an internal representation of an audience if you have never received much feedback from that audience in the real world. Since I regularly get feedback from staffers, I know them well enough to write to please them. I think the advantage of having wide internet circulation and feedback is that people will comment, criticise, and praise in exhaustive detail. With that much to work with, you can more easily predict responses.

Infatuated preteen girl will say "OMG ur SOOO hot r u single??" Desperate attempt at witticism guy will make a pun on something. Irritating nitpicker will point out every grammatical mistake and factual inaccuracy, and so on. Once you know the range of predictable responses, you can tailor your content to please, anger, or satisfy who you want. I don't want to use the word 'pander,' but I just did.

Hmm...I'm not sure if that really addressed the question, but I took 15 minutes to write it, so I'll post it anyway.

Posted by: Misoks at January 23, 2008 11:33 PM

audience wants sterility. just the facts. dead germs. no infections. gory and true. i struggle to be creative with my dear market. without your site, i would have a lot less playtime. perish the thought. thank you.

Posted by: xfox at January 23, 2008 11:51 PM


This cast of characters of which you speak are nothing more than expressions of your own internal insecurity. Don't ever listen to them, they extoll only their respective platitudes of mediocrity and serve only to hamper the creative process. Even the ones that you think have helped in the past will betray you in the future.

But that's just me.

Posted by: Kelvin Mason at January 23, 2008 11:51 PM

The Committee is composed of both men and women, all over 50 years of age, who wear conservative black suits and sit at an oversized, highly-polished mahogony conference table, passing around memoranda that I never get to see. They make prudent, intelligent choices that I can only overrule by behaving recklessly. Whether I want them around or not, they are always there, judging, opining, and scowling.
The Jester scans everything minutely with a gleaming eye. He's looking for double entendres, hidden jokes, and anything that sounds dirty, funny or witty. He first appeared in Kindergarten when the boys started telling icky jokes, and over the years, he increased his repertoire. In serious writings, I do everything in my power to disappoint him, but when I'm trying to be funny, he certainly comes in handy.
There's an immediate audience, of course, meaning the professor for whom you are writing your term paper or the friend you imagine opening your letter and grinning, but there are others who exist only in the mind: The Potential Future Husband who reads your contest-winning story and is immediately smitten, the mental Shrink who keeps asking you why you write and why you write what you write, your Former Friends/Enemies who will secretly gloat over any stupid or embarrassing thing you say or do, all the Dead Heroes you live and strive to emulate, and all the Future Great Ones who could someday list you among their influences.
On your favorite blog or forum there are Kindred Spirits who thrive on mutual understanding and recharge each other with an ever-growing creative energy that defies the laws of physics.
Lastly and over all there is The Book. Everything that has ever been said or done or dreamed is written in The Book, and long after we are dead and everyone still living has forgotten we ever existed, The Book will remain. Write carefully, and write well.

Posted by: Diana B. at January 24, 2008 12:14 AM

The more enmeshed I am with an audience, the less mental presence they have during the creation process. Things just pour out... perhaps they are there synaptically, just not processed in some parts of my consciousness. While on yearbook staff in high school, I wrote a series of short stories, elaborations of inside jokes and the ongoing narratives that we shared over layouts at lunch. For the most part, I see someone from the neck/shoulders up and hear their laughter... and if I don't know what they look like, my brain just picks someone else I know or combines faces. When I imagine my first full-length play being performed, I usually see the stage and empty seats of this theatre where I used to be an usher. Demographically, their audience largely wore dentures and frequently asked me to hold their Styrofoam containers of beef burgundy. Hence, the empty seats.

Posted by: tapanuli at January 24, 2008 1:50 AM

When I create something, I usually do not have an audience in the forefront of my mind. Given, the things I create for the world to see are only small items like a blog entry, an academic paper, or little snippets of music, but I cannot think of a time I have consciously thought of my audience. Usually my brain just tells me "that would be better if..." or "That's stupid, what are you doing?" I believe those type of comments are my subconscious thinking of my audience.

Posted by: Nicole at January 24, 2008 1:55 AM

Self-deception is important in the creative process. Use yourself as an audience and then begin to lie. Here's an example: say something that starts with, "One idea I've had is...." or "I've always thought it would be good to..."

In fact, you don't have a pre-existing idea at all. The very act of asserting that you already have an idea will permit you to complete the sentence with something worthwhile. Give it a try.

Posted by: Z at January 24, 2008 1:56 AM

Generally speaking, I try to work with only one person in mind. It's a lot less stressing. Have you ever heard Kurt Vonnegut's quote: 'Write with one person in mind, if you open up a window and make love to the world, your story will get pneumonia.'? If you haven't then you have now. (The previous was the most unnecessary sentence I've ever written.) I suppose I do occasionally consider what the audience would be like. For instance, I'm writing this for you, but I can imagine several hundred other people seeing this, especially if you respond to it directly. I suppose I see them as people sitting at their computers trying to forge through their daily lives. Sometimes, in the case of fiction, I imagine the audience as being seated in a theater watching my thoughts like a movie. My job is to keep from getting booed of stage. As long as my imaginary audience is satisfied, so am I. I trust that this audience shares similar beliefs with me, but is opinionated enough to tell me when I'm wrong. The people in the middle rows are probably most trustworthy if I think about it. They're not overeager to be there, they haven't flocked to the close, optimal tomato throwing range, and they haven't tried to sulk in the back. The least trustworthy audience member would probably be the man in the balcony stroking a white cat. Cats aren't allowed in movie theaters, so he has to be up to something . . .

. . . He'll be the one I avoid.

Posted by: Keeny at January 24, 2008 1:57 AM

I tend to write for an audience of people who I would get along with. I don't really imagine particular people and their reactions to it, I just try to write things that I would enjoy. Then I leave the ideas for a while so that I can forget I had them, and when I come back and look over what I was working on, if I like the sound of it, it's an encouraging sign. It's a little embarassing to laugh at your own jokes though.

I also pitch ideas to my friends, which I suppose is the same sort of process. I pick the friends who are the sort of audience I am thinking of (in terms of their interests / personalities I guess) and get their reactions to what I'm coming up with. I like to do that as soon as I think of an idea before I develop it any, so that I can see if the concept is as good as I think.

Posted by: Ben at January 24, 2008 2:32 AM

Imaginary conversations: I think about my little homunculi in terms of voices, but actually they’re components of a visceral sense. When they reach agreement, the sense becomes certainty in my gut. I feel satisfaction when I’m on the right track and a discomfiting sense when I’m off the mark. As I am the imitator and reflection of my heroes and the kid who shouts that the emperor is naked, so are my little homunculi. I’m sensitive and analytical, they are too. But they’re also a little better and smarter than I am. These sensibilities are comprised of teachers, comedians, musicians, novelists, artists, friends, and conversationalists both real and imagined.

Flashing through me as I create are images of all kinds of possible audiences, so I may distantly engage little global scenarios as I create, but I don’t pay complete attention to them. Trying to write for everyone is stifling, so if I get scattered I entrust the process to the ringleader of my little homunculi, the internalization of my friend since birth, Todd. Like a ready laugh, Todd wants to enjoy what I create. Knowing this frees me up and keeps me authentic; he also knows when I’m faking it. Scattering down in pyramid shape from Todd at the pinnacle are several internalized friends, my little homunculi-loved ones, visiting my internal world and yet remaining true as themselves – they speak up in nudges this way or that. I don’t invite all of them all the time – it depends what I’m working on. But it’s a rare thing for Todd not to show up. Then there’s me, which is all of the above and the part that is driven to speak up. Thank you for asking!


Posted by: Jeano at January 24, 2008 4:31 AM

There's a self-revealing, nebulous cloud swirling around an imagined version of my finished creation while I am making something. Depending on the complexity of the project and its duration the cloud is either wispy and barely perceptible or a thick, low lying fog with specific form, volume and texture.

If I'm making a quick sketch on a white board then I check the created against the nebulous cloud very little or not at all. It is like glancing at a map, being confident I know where I'm going and setting out on that journey.

In the case of short form videos I take a little stroll down a metaphorical familiar street. Here and there I will stop and pick up sought after, specifically shaped blocks of wood. The color and size of these blocks swirl and change even as I begin to arrange them into a sculpture. After moving small and large portions around for a time I'll take a plaster cast and release a finished product. Occasionally I'll go back into the studio and add a few new blocks or just toss around the existing ones to see if their color and shape have changed any more.

With long form, collaborative film or video projects the cloud is all around and must be navigated through to a final continental destination. Me and my crew set out on a ship and aim the prow of to a star. At times I'll take the wheel and heave the rudder on the course I reckon is best. While I am asleep or swabbing the deck I trust my crew mates to use their best judgment memory to keep us headed to the land mass. When we land, it is usually at the right country. The spot along the shore can vary greatly.

Other variants can also affect where our ship runs aground. If the fog is thick or the storm rough our priority may shift to basic survival. Who knows where we will end up. If there is a sense of adventure and whimsy we may go where the current takes us.

I hardly ever see actual people or characters during the creation process. When I do they often come and go like cumulus clouds on a bright and windy day. One moment they look like Winston Churchill and the next a dog peeing on a fire hydrant.

Posted by: Awed Job at January 24, 2008 7:49 AM

There is definitely some internal representation of an audience but it’s vague. I think I feel this way about all work where the contact with the audience isn’t face to face; it’s like I send the work out into an unknown void and I have no idea what happens to it after I finish. (I kinda like this, in a way)

There is definitely a cast of people that each have a different dialogue but, like you say, they are always changing and perhaps they just represent certain aspects of myself or my perceptions of different sections of the audience, I really don’t know. While these characters are largely unspecified and vague, I do recognise them when they appear, like a recognition of certain familiar feelings. Also, I would say that these little internal dialogues/‘voices’ (oh dear! creativity looking more and more like mental illness by the second!!) are mostly critical, probably reflecting my insecurity about whatever I’m doing as I desperately try to make it better. As for how I see them; often, I imagine snapshots of people looking at my work for the first time, I see a clip of their first impression, I rarely imagine what people will think in the long term.

Essentially, I think I try to produce things that I myself will like in the hope that others will too. Even if only a few people feel the way I do about something there is still that great feeling of identification; the work or whatever provides a common ground if you like. I think each person that I imagine is possibly an aspect of myself which I am trying to please.

I have to admit that recently I haven’t really made much of anything and I feel like I’ve forgotten a lot of what the creative process feels like. Perhaps, if I were to get back into the swing of things my internalised audience would become more defined (names n all!!).

I’ve never consciously thought about this before now, so thank you for bringing it up Ze. Its actually surprisingly hard to explain what you see in your minds eye. Now, lets hear about your cast? :)

Posted by: Gen at January 24, 2008 8:34 AM

First, I should clarify that the things I create are either technical presentations or scientific publications. Despite that very left brain audience, I think my process is as right brain as any!

I do have an internal representation of that audience, although I've never really thought about it before. Thanks Ze!

Without a doubt, there are editorial voices different from my own, especially for the scientific publications. I try to imagine the most crotchety and ill-tempered reviewer reading the manuscript. He's a more ignorant, sleep deprived, pissed off version of myself when I review the work of others :)

I'd have to say that sometimes I do interact with them verbally (more often for the presentations) and other times is more the "emotional surface" type interaction (for the manuscripts).

There are clearly particular moments of feedback, and not some sort of audience averaging.

They have diverse points of view, all generally based people or personality types I've encountered in the past.

I have no idea what they look like, unless they are a particular real person that I think might be in the audience or reviewing the manuscript.

There are definitely ones I listen to more than others, but alas there are none that I can completely avoid.

Posted by: Don Schaffner at January 24, 2008 9:49 AM

I never really thought about it. As I do however, I am compelled to write my discoveries as they come. I think much of my 'internal audience' is a conglomeration of how I perceive people that I admire, and even create a persona of them to add to my audience. Their influence or 'voice' is most often only heard in my head, when I am conscious of the outside influence's perceived influence as it occurs in the here and now.

Wow. I don't know if you followed that. I might have to go away and think about this some more.

I do think there are people in my internal audience with whom I have paid little attention to, but have more influence in my decisions than I give them credit.

Posted by: Greg Woolf at January 24, 2008 10:12 AM

I am an architect. I used to pride myself on understanding my audience and giving them what they want. Now I think this leads to creative disaster. So now I hold a meeting of all the participants, some human, some mathematical. Make sure there is good food and drink available. Everyone gets a chance to speak.

Some tell stories, some show pictures, we often wander around together outside, just to get a little fresh air and perspective. I find the sun, wind, water, and gravity to be most informative and trustworthy. Coin speaks the loudest and is the least informative. He lies, anyway. I love to hear about the people who are going to live in the building, rather, I love to just watch them live. They don’t actually have to say much at all.

In the end, some participants tickle me and others just irritate. As you have discovered, it is important to like people so I make sure I thank everyone for attending and show them out my right ear. Then I try to remember what tickled and create something for myself.

I think it is wonderful if the end product only irritates 1/3 of the real audience. You can imagine how a standing ovation feels.

Posted by: Tom Stohlman at January 24, 2008 10:35 AM

As a writer of things both corporate and fiction, I spend a great deal of time living in my head each day. I have a feeling of company being with me at all times as I sound out my ideas internally before putting them to paper. This occasionally causes me to talk out loud to these "voices" in my head, and I'm known for occasionally "disappearing" into a daydream while working. This is just me discussing an idea with my own mental audience. My imagination provides me with this unlimited audience, and without it my writing would be quite different, and not nearly as satisfactory to me or as readable to others.

Posted by: leslie at January 24, 2008 11:49 AM

A couple things:

My approach, in the vast complexity that your question engages, has been to rely on my intuition. I never had well-defined senses of the edges of the interlacing segments of my intended audience -- I have, perhaps, mostly an overal sense of their center of gravity.

In independent creative work, my writing dictates its own audience, so I don't have to be bothered with it.

As a young control freak, I remember asking my profs about if and how one could study the way in which to write to a particular audience so as to most impactful in your communications. I never got much of an answer back then.

Since then, I've learned the word for this: skillful means. I've also come across one evolving map that really does provide a useful way of looking at people (audiences) within a multi-dimensional framework against which anybody can mapped and, once mapped, give you an idea of what types of language and values and structures are important to each type, and the challenges of communication to multiple types.

I encourage anyone interested to visit the following site and check out some of the conversations it archives. (It's subscription based, but there is weekly free content, and an ongoing first-month-free deal): http://integralnaked.org.


Posted by: Michael Craig at January 24, 2008 12:21 PM

There’s variety. Connected ideas are dangerous and venerable places. Trusting results and team work destroy original dreams while the exposure is when you know it’s just you and you’re on your own, always on your own. Time stands still in the thick of a truly free and worthwhile addiction and imagined personifications are your best and only friends. Unexpected changes in the conversation give good hints along the way and if sincere can provide strong and great shields. What comes out of nowhere are effortless love letters, pure perception while fear, foolishness and rejection hide behind metaphors. Like this one. Shapes are always sweet, peppered with mishaps and humor followed by the best of intentions. Like favorable nouns they never have the heart to hide, protect or save, and come with very sharp teeth.

Posted by: peoplewhosavechina at January 24, 2008 12:35 PM


I have an imaginary audience, whenever I'm doing PR stuff or designing stuff.

They change depending on the thing I'm doing. If I'm doing a Country Band promo, I see them in my mind - I see the pick up trucks, I see them driving around Northern Vermont singing along to WLVB and having opinions - opinions about my organization, about the world, about themselves.

I don't verbalize how the audience might react unless I relate to the demographic, then I have answers and issues from them. Then I think they're a little unrealistically like me.

I try to generalize the audience but in reality they're based on a demographic that I follow, so they are an amalgam of people on twitter, in my google reader RSS feed, from the nytimes, my siblings, my parents and my wife and kids. A big melted mass that is averaged.

I avoid some of my perceived audience, but not if I'm really trying to do good PR. I find them rather cynical and worldly - sophisticated, but somewhat black and white.

They're not named....

Fun, thought provoking - thanks for the question.



Posted by: Steve Ames at January 24, 2008 12:36 PM

I wonder if any of Ze's proto-audience looks like forum icons with silly names.

Posted by: Brendan at January 24, 2008 12:52 PM

I don't have formalized characters when I'm writing a book or preparing a talk. But the dialog in my head when revising does approximate three or four imaginary people:

1) The curious neophyte. If someone at random walked in off the street would any of this make sense? Would they keep reading/listening?

2) The expert asshole. What if the person who knew everything about this subject and loved to criticize read this paragraph or heard this lecture. What vitriol would I hear? What bullshit would they call me on?

3) The daily grinder. How about the guy who actually does whatever I'm talking about for a living and when I'm done will go straight back to work. Will anything I write or say impact what he does the rest of the day? week? month?

4) The fan. Will someone familiar with my work find this boring? repetitive? derivative? Can I make this more fun for them instead of less?

Posted by: Scott Berkun at January 24, 2008 2:13 PM

Is this plea for introspection due to Bob, Bobo, JJ, Mark, Ethyl, Shaqueena, Condiloosa, and Hands being on strike?

Posted by: Tom Stohlman at January 24, 2008 2:31 PM

I work in the world of food - which can be intensely personal for both creator and audience. When I create new menus, the initial drafts are generally the purest expressions of my own creativity and inspiration. There may be a flavor profile that I am trying to capture or a particular sense memory I want to recreate. During this first stage, I try to ignore the whispering in my head. But about midway through the process, I let "The Kids" in to look around and tell me what they think.

The Kids are a way for me to critique my work from various angles:
Is this practical/doable?
Does it appeal to the portion of the audience I know?
Will the fussy audience members be tempted to try it?
Can I let go of my own ego enough to make this accessible while still staying true to myself and the work I'm creating?

And yes, the proto-audience in my head is a herd of 6 yr olds. They can be demanding, are often unwilling to try new things and have the occasional temper tantrum. But most importantly, they have no filters on what they say.

The Kids are often based on feedback & audience members (most of whom are actual adults), yet when I recast them as young caricatures of themselves, I both accentuate their concerns as well as temper their input. It's a cheap trick that lets me know/feel that I can overrule the proto-audience if I really believe in some aspect of what I'm creating. Using the Kids gives my critical side the chance to poke and prod but keeps me from critiquing the life & soul out of my creative efforts.

Posted by: Jen at January 24, 2008 3:50 PM

My audience sits on high stools, and includes another me, an intelligent friend of mine, and another that is not so intelligent.
Generally, my aim is to get the look off the face of the not-so-intelligent one, and place it on the intelligent one; I aim to write at a level where the intelligent one is confused, the not-so-intelligent one has lost all hope, and I am sitting, nodding my head quietly. Most of the time, this is hard to achieve, but it it my aim none the less.
Occasionally, however, when I write, the audience may change. It is largely dependent on what I am writing. The former mentality is one I have when writing in my blog (www.blackmirth.co.nr, if you are interested), but, say, if I am writing a story, I imagine my old English teacher, or if I am writing something formal, I always imagine the exam boards that marked my exam papers.

Posted by: Blackmirth at January 24, 2008 4:08 PM

The work itself dictates whatever manifestation the creative process takes: genre and intent. It goes back to what Kundera wrote in The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

“The first category longs for the look of an infinite number of anonymous eyes, in other words, the look of the public.”

“The second category is made up of people who have a vital need to be looked at by many known eyes.”

“Then there is the third category, the category of people who need to be constantly before the eyes of the person they love.”

“And finally there is the fourth category, the rarest, the category of people who live in the imaginary eyes of those who are not present (pgs. 269-270).”

I think that one needs to consider whether they are creating for personal fulfillment, audience approval, and the platform by which they want to disseminate his/her product.
I started acting when I was five; I started getting paid for acting when I was ten. Through the years, I spent a lot of my time relying on instinct, watching my cast-mates, following the edicts of my directors, and studying the work of successful predecessors.
As a reader interprets the written word, so does the actor. As I read the script, I would think to myself, How would this sound, what would this look like, what would the character do? Then I would think about how I could represent the character through my physical movements and my voice.
That’s the initial stage. Then, there’s the collaborative stage, the interplay between the cast, director, set, lighting, costumes, and sound. I needed to consider what changes needed to be made to make things work. Finally, the overture begins, the houselights dim, and I would wait in the wings anticipating the curtains’ lift. The moment I walked out onto the stage, I became dually responsive to what I had prepared and to what the audience was feeding me. As an actor, I thought it was always important to be able to read an audience in the moment and cater to them regardless of what I had prepared. Perhaps that was callous. Maybe that was why I was bad at auditioning, I always felt ill prepared to presuppose what a casting director was looking for. I always had more faith in an audience than an administration, as it were.
As an actor, I was always much more mindful of the script than I was to the audience. The work started with the script and ended with the audience.
When I begin a writing project, it often begins as a sort of daydream. An image or a piece of dialogue will surface and taunt me for a while until I can begin to structure the story or poem around it. Lately, I find myself thinking more about who is reading my work rather than what was dictating the expression but that developed over the years. In college, when I started to take my writing seriously, I never thought about that flexible response to an audience. However, over time I have learned to envision the intended audience. My writing differs greatly based on whether I’m writing a paper for graduate school, a letter to a friend, a poem, a story, or an essay delivered for no purpose other than to divulge my personal thought process. However, I still find myself more devoted to the work than the reader.
Working as a teacher at a Columbia University Reading and Writing Project lab-site, I have begun to further deconstruct my own writing projects to find that I am constantly editing toward its edict. I ask myself about the relevance of the story, the heart of it, the timeline, the leads, and the genre. Especially when contemplating the genre, I imagine what it will look like, mostly based on what I have seen, heard and read. I take inspiration from my own life, poets, novelists, actors and filmmakers, and then, imagine it in a public forum. Yes, I take into consideration to whom it will cater. However, I also take into account what needs to be said and what I want to say. Perhaps that’s why I am a teacher. Simultaneously, I value the person for whom I am writing and equally, I value the person writing.
Ideologically, the more specific you are (without seeming to be as such), the better chance you have to master something and evoke a sense of wonderment.

Posted by: Meghan at January 24, 2008 4:50 PM

The characters I create in my head are always much larger than real life. There's no real dialog, it's more about me worrying about the vast unknown and how many ways they might reject me. They're like a punk gang of potential troublemakers that I worry about; people who would take me to court for some reason; the kind of people I can't believe exist. It usually comes down to whether they'll stay and play and be fun or chase me out of town with rocks. It's a leap of faith.

But once the lights are on and things are up and running, the actual audience always surprises me: they're much more kind and human. Friendly, forgiving, supportive. It's always refreshing to see that I was only afraid of shadows. In the end it makes me pretty fearless. Until the next thing comes along.

Posted by: Julie Jackson at January 24, 2008 5:39 PM

I write, primarily, in two very different mediums, novels and on a blog. When I'm writing a novel (or in the rare case that the fiction I am writing is a short story) I don't spend a single moment considering my audience. When I started my first novel, over a decade ago, I did put some amount of effort in trying to craft my fiction toward a specific type of reader. After some time, however, it became clear to me that what I was actually doing was trying to create fiction similar to that of writers that I admired.

I'm not going to say that my prose isn't greatly influenced by a few key authors, but once I stopped trying to craft something for an anonymous "audience" I really started to write like myself. Since then, my attitude has been, essentially, f*** the audience. This might come from the fact that I am an unpublished novelist and I bear a grudge against the publishing industry in general. But I like to believe (however false it may be) that this attitude actually makes me write better because I am only concerned with crafting the best possible fiction I can.

As a blog writer, I have decided to take the same approach. My blog gets (if I'm lucky) 30 unique hits a day, and at least half of those visitors are known to me personally. For those people, I don't really have to consider whether or I am creating something they will enjoy. I've known those readers so long that they will continue to read my inane ramblings out of stubborn devotion. For the other 15, they are but faceless names floating on the vast ether of the interwebz...if they do not like what I create, does it much matter?

Posted by: kilian at January 24, 2008 7:07 PM

When I illustrate, or design, or write. I usually have two other people in my head aside from myself. They've grown over the years picking up characteristics in terms of their critiques, as well as appearance from people I've come across over the years.

Oddly enough they're both men. I don't think I like what that says to myself, about myself, but so be it.

There is old man. He is your generic greying good natured Prof. Smirks and asks me over and over again, "Do you really need that there? What's that saying? If its not saying something toss it out. Does this bit have a purpose? Are you sure?" over and over again.

The other is a really irritating hipster who talks about how he lives in a converted factory and prints underground concert posters by hand using his own blood. He tells me Im not educated enough to be a graphic designer since I cant discuss it in a pretentious manner. I only know "Yes." "No." and "That doesn't look right. Move it a little".

I don't really like either one of them, to be honest. But they just won't go anywhere else. So I try to avoid having an audience altogether 90% of the time.

Posted by: Cuphate at January 24, 2008 7:50 PM

Wow, Ze, it's a good point you bring up! I seem to have just one, but he represents a lot of different aspects...all of them negative. If my writing starts to drag for a few paragraphs or sentences he pops in and lays down some sarcastic remark (in my head, he speaks literally in complete sentences, almost like my personality splits for a few seconds) to set me back on track. He also represents the "Ultimate Boredom", as in, no one can be more bored about what I'm writing than he is so if I can entertain him then I know I can entertain others. It's not just with creative writing though, he also helps with essays and even this right now (complaining that sentence 2 was confusing, so I changed it). I'm glad he's there, without him I might be too afraid to show my work!

By the way: in terms of shape and color, he looks identical to me except he often is wearing glasses (I wear contacts) and he invariably sits in an empty theatre (I'm on stage).

Posted by: Lundy at January 24, 2008 10:09 PM

I have a few characters that review my creative projects while I work on them. Before I even start, however, products of the brainstorming process are judged by potential “back of the book commentary.” I imagine the best case scenario critic commentary like "Amazing Insight" or "Completely original with exciting characters"... Eventually I find a idea that gets me and the critics really excited about.

Then when I start working, I can see what caliber the work would be around, and instead of best case scenario commentary, I wonder what my valued friends and family would think. They give me advice and tell me if it is marketable or valuable. Of course there's the typical dialog, where I bounce ideas off of them and we discuss the pros and cons.

Eventually, any creative projects I create and share are only the ones where quality is not the highest concern. i.e. it’s the thought that counts. Creative works are gifts that I give to friends and loved ones. I guess this happens because it’s the only venue of creativity I am comfortable with, and it gives my work sentimental value instead of a price tag or value as a contribution to the world of art.

Posted by: Ted at January 24, 2008 11:53 PM

There aren't little people. There are emotions. I know I'm on to something kickass when I laugh at my own jokes. It seems that any real audience that encounters work that I cracked myself up on really go after my own inner jokes. I think you could say something about enjoying your own process here. But in a particular way- I do enjoy getting serious and focusing up, but somehow when I get to laughing- i.e. not taking myself so seriously, there's a bounce that works out for the product and for me as the maker.

I used to fantasize that I was in a dialogue or competitive race/challenge with famous artists or my friends, but that has largely disappeared as I have become more isolated with my work process.

Happy uncovering the creative process!

Posted by: Mary at January 25, 2008 3:11 AM

Personally, I'm afraid of my audience -- because the second they start showing their presence, or seeming real, it dams my flow of creativity. When that happens, things change from being a fountain of honest expression into something that's more reserved, more checked.

This is why I keep my audience (on my website) down to just myself. At one time, its success was measured by how often people visited, then by how frequently those people added comments. Initially, they were all uniform and indistinguishable -- a name, attached to an email and URL. Then I started visiting those URLs and saw spoken words, pictures, and links to friends. My audience existed in a very real sense, and I became afraid of offending them with my next post. Even more than that, I became afraid of boring them and never having them return.

So I am back down to an audience of one. Although it's me, you might expect that I wouldn't have a problem visualizing myself. But since I spend much of my authorship living in the past, I have to burn alot of calories thinking about what I was like then, and whether it's worth stirring up those ghosts. After all, I might not like what I see. I definitely don't like sometimes how I saw the world back then. It can be embarrassing...

Posted by: Spamboy at January 25, 2008 7:08 AM

Imagine a box full of thin strips of curled up shredded paper. In the box and in-between the papers are little trinkets. Sifting through the box you might find a trinket that looks pleasing so you reach into the box with your eyes and study it further. Like now. As you study the trinket it magically produces a special key, this key unlocks a secret door in your brain. Inside this trinket finds its complimentary trinket partner. They fall in love instantly, mate and meld together. If they continue to get on well they start to create a beautiful world of their own. If they don't, they are relegated to the back burner and used for spare parts to help build other worlds later on. Some trinkets come jammed packed with features ready to go, while others need much nurturing; the use of former and older ideas to help them along; those spare parts. They say the later is more satisfying and worthwhile, but it's the ones that are jammed packed that eventually get you more trinkets to consider and a trip to the Bahamas.

Posted by: sleepinginthesand at January 25, 2008 8:04 AM

These are wonderful questions; I often think about such things in the context of preparing talks about creative process for my writing classes.

I am most drawn to this question: "Do you interact with them verbally or do you bounce things off of some sort of an emotional surface?" In my mind, when I am writing poems or fictions or personal essays, there isn't really a "them"--but there is a kind of emotional surface. It's as if there are two distinct parts of my mind working simultaneously, one of which is producing the flow of possibilities while the other sifts and selects and discards or holds as a "maybe." I use myself as a guinea pig, and I know I'm onto something when a kind of elation I associate with discovery appears. At that point I may think of my wife, who is my best and most honest reader. I will perhaps get an anticipatory glimpse of her in my mind at that point--and often she is smiling or laughing in a way that gives me a further sense of being on the right track. I never visualize anybody else as an audience--except when I'm writing argumentative things, in which case I often visualize (faintly) a debate going on in a place like a classroom. Perhaps this is because speaking before a live audience allows the risk involved to increase blood flow to the brain, and even imagining it in this way has a similar effect.

Posted by: Daryl Scroggins at January 25, 2008 12:08 PM

Whenever I post to the internets for public consumption, I tend to picture (unasked for, mind you) an image of my grandmother sitting amongst an audience of young, hip people. So, I am challenged to amuse yet not insult, well, anybody. I fear that as a result I post very banal crap. But I can't kick Nana out of the audience. She sits up front, center aisle.

Posted by: Imagine at January 25, 2008 3:11 PM

It depends where I'm writing and why. I post to three blogs and write news & features for a mainstream media outlet. I'm more sensitive to the makeup of my audience when I write for the blogs. That's probably because I'm more intimate with them; in many cases I know them personally. A no-brainer. What's interesting to me is that seems to hinder my creative process. With more formal feature stories aimed at a much wider/hazier audience, I tend to write from the gut & feel more confident in my abilities.

Posted by: zach at January 25, 2008 5:24 PM

I don't really use personas for creative writing, but often do for work when identifying target groups.

A lot of my creative writing comes out of moments (real or imagined) or impressions or emotions and I think that probably I am writing to or for the essence of those things. That moment where the old woman sitting by the lake starts laughing to herself, the business man carefully separating all of the food on his plate with this knife and then asking for a new knife to eat with, the colleague who seemed so stiff until that day we saw him on the dance floor with childlike glee on his face.

I think that there are universals in all of these things. And it is those moments of emotion or revelation that I write to. And try to do it as genuinely and sincerely as possible, hoping it strikes a real chord in someone else too.

Posted by: ingrid at January 26, 2008 7:52 AM

Wow, Ze, it's a good point you bring up! I seem to have just one, but he represents a lot of different aspects...all of them negative. If my writing starts to drag for a few paragraphs or sentences he pops in and lays down some sarcastic remark (in my head, he speaks literally in complete sentences, almost like my personality splits for a few seconds) to set me back on track. He also represents the "Ultimate Boredom", as in, no one can be more bored about what I'm writing than he is so if I can entertain him then I know I can entertain others. It's not just with creative writing though, he also helps with essays and even this right now (complaining that sentence 2 was confusing, so I changed it). I'm glad he's there, without him I might be too afraid to show my work!

By the way: in terms of shape and color, he looks identical to me except he often is wearing glasses (I wear contacts) and he invariably sits in an empty theatre (I'm on stage).

Posted by: Lundy at January 26, 2008 5:00 PM

Due to my relish for adversity, my imagined audience is packed with nay-sayers, nemeses, people who say it can't be done, at least not by me. Then there are the respected peers and imagined brilliant artistic geniuses I seek to impress and attract; a sort of cultural elite who I hope will smile upon me and invite me into their treehouse.

Somehow there is no clashing between the two parties. Maybe they are sitting on opposites sides of the venue, like some sort of art school hockey game {i've been to one. the RISD fans kept chastising the rivals for their mismatched uniforms. true story}. There are gasps of appreciation from one side, gasps of disgust from the other. Excellent propulsion.

Posted by: Zea at January 26, 2008 9:32 PM

i've been thinking about this for a few days. they were in need, as i realised that my audience is more of a sensation, a vague amalgam of shapes ( of the human form ) and voices. the colour is also vague, usually supressed by white.

the interesting thing is, that for some reason, all my interactions are placed in a gallery, and i, as the creator, assume a viewer's point. i find myself hidden behind a column, or in the photographer's position, observing the artist seemingly discussing matters with others. these others, i think tend to resemble people i perhaps admire, and would very much like to interact with in the first place. i never see their faces. they are usually in profile, or 3 quarters sided. i don't think there is ever a specific conversation taking place, or if it does, i remember nothing at this point. my feeling is, that by making the work public, so to speak, i attain closure on the respective project. simply having the work exposed and viewers interacting with it, seems to give me the required confidence for this closure.

sometimes i also imagine phonecalls made, usually congratulating the nature of the project (again, i assume, in order to attain closure ). entire conversations. i do have difficulty in remembering their content, at this point, which leads me to believe that it all takes part during the creative process, in a subjective manner. maybe i don't even care about the content of the conversation, maybe it's just about the pat on the back.

voila. for now

Posted by: anna at January 27, 2008 5:40 AM

Fascinating discussion.
I make art. I don't sell much but according to my webcounts, lots and lots of people look.
Some days this is enough for me, others I wish I sold more. but your question has made me think deeply about what feedback I am looking for, what I want from my viewers, do I work for the feedback or is just knowing they look enough?
and who are the "they" anyway?
I have learned to think small.
about once a week I get an a-mail praising what I do, saying I have changed their whole outlook on their creativity, and that fuels me.
I work for those people.
actually - I guess I work for that one person.
That single person who says I have helped them somehow in their own creative path.
I don't really ask them in my head what they need, I just assume they will like what I do.
That one person is my hero.
If ten thousand more end up looking on to our conversation, well, that's okay with me, too.
but I find shooting low - aiming to just please one means I have met my goals - thinking small helps me do what I do without expecting too much feedback.

and I do count on the ripple effect to make the idea of spreading creativity affect the whole planet.
Our intention can do that, so if my creative ideas spread like a virus, the audience actually is the whole of humanity.
How's that for thinking small?

Posted by: Em at January 27, 2008 6:34 AM

Wow. I really enjoyed reading through these. What a fabulous group of people. I wish I knew you all.

The one thing that I noted was how intensely personal everyone's experience was, and how deeply intimate and individual. I really think that this is at the heart of it.
I think maybe it's "how ever you get things out there" and "whatever works for you, personally."

Thank you for letting these stories come into the world Ze.

Posted by: ingrid at January 27, 2008 7:36 AM

As much as I am loathe to admit it..... I'm constantly conscious of MY "audience" throughout the creative process ... AND, to be honest, it has a lot to do with evoking a favourable response or "blowing them away" ...and seeing them as a kind of concordant....demographic(sigh)
Doesn't sound so artistic I guess, but my perceived "audience" is basically the people whose opinion I respect the most and, subsequently, whose validation I seek the most (other than my parent's of course)
Visually I tend to imagine kind of APPARITION-like(similar to a cross-dissolve film transition) representations of these people (my twin brother, good friends, people I admire) and said FAVOURABLE response(excitement,elation) OR a dialogue of THEIR potential criticism and MY explanation . Then I try to decide whether or not I'm being "subtle" or "nuanced"..OR cheesy...or derivative.......or just confusing people.
Depends on the medium of course and WHY you're making it in the first place but...I've always felt the need to EXPRESS and the validation of that expression are inextricable.

Shit....I was going to say it didn t apply when I make music(which I do mostly for myself) but...I think it does.

Also!....I sometimes DO visualize responses from PEOPLE I despise (like the gang over at FOX "News"etc.)... pissing off people who piss you off is SOBERING as well as inspiring I find.

Posted by: Pete at January 27, 2008 12:32 PM

Hi, Ze, I've been a fan for a long time! You've sure figured out how to get the narcissists to come out and play with THIS question. ;-p

Sidestepping the mammoth pretentiousness here (discussing the "artistic consequences of the inner workings of one's imaginative audience" and so on - haha), I write what I anticipate will still make my tongue dance when it's read out loud in another decade or two. My critical audience is timelessness and relevance and that's a tough balancing act.

In addition to my writing, I experiment with any and all mediums. I envision the kind of person I'd want owning my artwork and I aim to impress them but am grounded by knowing that that ideal adherent would be borderline bored with my creations because they're so creative they "already thought of that" or so cultured they've "seen that before".

I guess a happy medium rules in general.

I don't recommend this outlook/process/callitwhatyouwill to anyone because more often than not, the results never see the light of day because the standards to which my art is held are normally pretty unreachable.

Oh, final thought, I purposely create things that stupid people won't be able to enjoy. If you can't pronounce the words I use, I find joy in that, so there's an insightful motivator into my elitist psyche. :-x

Posted by: McKay at January 29, 2008 8:35 AM

My homunculi are useless. I don't trust them.

They're either telling me how wonderful what I just did was, or distancing themselves in an unseemly scrabble when it proves not to be the case again. They're a disturbing chimera of my mother and middle management.

You need something though. I quite like to use those text-to-speech gizmos to make sure I didn't say something stupid. A good open source one is one called Sayz Me, it reads what I write back to me in a dispassionate and robotic voice.

Perhaps, they'd work even better with snide, sneery voices!

Posted by: gav at January 29, 2008 12:39 PM

Depending on the task at hand, the audience changes. When it comes to trimmed, researched college essays – which is as far as I have gotten in terms of “professional” sort of work – the audience is, of course, my teacher and my peers who edit the papers. I hate to admit that I fall victim to doing the bare minimum at times in course work in pleasing the teacher just to get a grade. However, this isn’t always the case. If I see something in a prompt that I feel is important, I will not just write for the teacher or for the grade. I become invested. Suddenly, I become the audience moreso than the handful of people I sometimes imagine I’m explaining the subject to. If I can convince myself of the argument and communicate my thoughts clearly, then I know I’ve done my job.
However in my personal work, whether it be in the visual arts, writing, or performing in a band, the audience varies.
In the visual arts, when I engage in my personal pursuits, the audience is entirely me. I do the art because I feel like it, and I do it like I want. How harsh I come down on myself depends on the project. Often a project will start as a school project which I will push beyond the limits because I want it to be something I can enjoy later on that I made for me, not just for the class. For the most part, every decision I make hinges on what it is that I think is clever, aesthetically pleasing, and practical.
I’ve been known to make gifts for people who I admire. This brings in two audiences; myself and the recipients of the gift. I, of course, want the gift-reciever to love the work, but since I started the habit of making gifts, I’ve noticed that for the most part, they tend to appreciate the gift for what it is. Perhaps it’s because I appeared out of the blue, made them something, and when about my way not expecting anything in return. Well, that’s what I tell myself… But even in making a gift for someone else, this hunger I feel to make it as good as it can possibly be hinges off of my own perceptions of how the gift should be. I settle for nothing less than the best.
Writing, however, is an entirely different story (so to speak), perhaps because of my lack of experience in this field. I write short stories, poems, but mostly scripts. The audience in this case flip flops constantly between myself, and an imaginary audience.
Perhaps the most profound thing that has happened to me while writing was when I became the audience member. Prior to this kind of moment I, no doubt, have been working on preparing a piece for a long time. I set the stage for everything, the characters, the world, etc. At a certain point, though, the characters take on a life of their own and I have no choice but to release them and let them do what it is that they’re going to do. Suddenly, it seems like the characters are writing the story and I’m simply the person copying down what they are saying. From this point, I become the audience member and stand back. I watch the characters interactions and interrupt occasionally to call them out on a few things, which I then go back and edit.
Usually, when I become very organized with writing (when I use an outline, scribble down exactly what I want to happen) I imagine an audience. They are a fairly large audience that could fill perhaps half a gym court. They have no specific features, and I know this because I never see them. When writing, the only thing I think about is whether or not this is clear from these peoples perspectives. Occasionally I will purposely try to confuse the audience for a moment; often the people who fill half the gym court will look to one another searching their expressions for understanding as to what I have just written.

Posted by: Tavia Morra at January 30, 2008 1:11 AM

I must first-off, admit that I may not be exceptionally ‘brained-up’ on the science of intellectual discourse or dynamic communication. So I can only offer my thoughts on this topic in slightly simplified terms. I’ll call this the Wheeler vs. Bouncing Ball Paradigm - A Right Brain / Left Brain…. thing

In the conveyance of what may be considered by most to be a ‘quality’ presentation to an audience, there are three core elements that must be present:

1.) The information to be conveyed through the presentation,

2.) The conveyor – i.e.: the presenter - defined in practical terms in the context of their capacity to convey the presented information, whether live or through some time shift media / medium

3.) The conveyee(s) – i.e.: the audience – the integrity of which is determined through their ‘receptivity’ to the presented information. (By ‘receptivity’ I am not referring to the audience agreeing with the presenter, or accepting the validation of the content, but rather the ability of the audience to process and understand the content.)

While my own experience has demonstrated most presenters to place all importance into #1 and/or #2, very few ever consider #3 as a necessity. In the endless stream of lectures, sermons, speeches, homilies, demos and the like that I have endured, some have believed that the integrity of the content will carry the presentation on its own despite the limitations of either the presenter or the audience. Others have believed that the sheer power of their presence or personality is all that is needed to turn any presentation into gold. In some circles, these folks may be thought of politicians, celebrities, bishops, Fox News anchors or just plain old dick-heads.

But I believe that #3 is as important as points 1 & 2, if not more so. If an audience is not primed for receptivity, than the presentation is really nothing more than philosophical or intellectual masturbation. And who needs that when we’ve already got Oprah’s Book Club?

So… what about this ‘audience’? Well, like everyone else, I have been part of an ‘audience’ for most of my life. When I was in school I discovered that I consistently had a very hard time remaining focused on presentations, demonstrations, and lectures, - until I began doodling. I can recall being reprimanded by instructors for not paying attention because I was seemingly focused on the sketches in my notebook, to the point where I was intended to be made an example of by a teacher who came to my desk, grabbed by notepad, ripped and crumbled the top page for all to see, and then challenged me to address the class with the current notations of his lecture topic. I then proceeded to state verbatim that last three sentences of his lecture. He was pissed. But I discovered then the dynamic of right brain / left brain receptivity. While my ‘right brain’ was occupied with the doodling, my ‘left brain’ was free to focus on the lecture, properly listening to and processing the conveyed information.

Enter: Wheeler vs the Bouncing Ball.

Wheeler was a high school history teacher. (Not the teacher mentioned above.) Wheeler was old – very old – and he mumbled and fumbled through his lectures on history with a passionless ‘blah’ness that one might associate with boiled bacon. To a room full of adolescents this was considered a tragic irony due to the belief that he should have been able to recount most of history from a first-hand perspective. The only saving grace that prevented the students from falling asleep three minutes into his lectures was that Wheeler usually fell asleep first. Wheeler was not engaging.

On the other end of the spectrum, I’d like to explore the concept of the bouncing ball, the one used in group sing-alongs with projected text on a screen. The bouncing ball was typically used to indicate the proper flow and pattern of the lyrics in conjunction with the melody. It is a simple function, and well executed. But it also serves a related, yet possibly unintentional purpose. While the ‘right brain’ is engaged in being ‘entertained’ by the animated nature of the bouncing ball, the ‘left brain’ is not only able to FOLLOW the song, but is more easily able to LEARN the song, and in many cases, effectively commit it to memory.

This science of the bouncing ball in a more amplified sense can be seen in the difference between two styles of slideshow presentation:

The Old Way:
Click “Here we are loading our shi….stuff into the car”
Click “Here we are fumbling for change at the toll booth.”
Click “Here we are standing by a statue. That’s your Aunt Nettie wearin’ them glasses.”

Raise your hands if you remember those grueling evenings in a darkened living room gathered around a slide carousel. It felt like a freakin’ eternity.

The New Way:
Cue the music… Press play…. Followed by laughter, amazement, coolness, and a bunch of other stuff I don’t know how to describe in practical terms. But suffice to say that with the bevy of tools included in most current popular digital photo editing and digital slideshow presentation applications like iPhoto, Photo to Movie and others, the inclusion of appropriate backing music and the application of tasteful transitions and the “Ken Burns Effect” can turn a boring old series of stills into an engaging romp through the backyard of someone else’s experience.

But that is just one example. Naturally there are many ways to address multiple variants of receptivity in the course of a single presentation; Dynamic magnetism of the presenter and their innate passion for the content as demonstrated through the emotional depth of the delivery - the animated pattern of their speech or physical presence in a manner appropriate to the subject and the environment - audience appropriate maturity of prose presented in consumable patterns of logical flow - employment of supplemental elements such as audio and visuals to support the content and enhance engagement without being too flashy, distracting, unintentionally entertaining or otherwise artistically masturbatory. The nature of the content and the strengths of the presenter will help determine which variants will help in maximizing the receptivity of the audience…. It is a proper balance of the three core elements of a quality presentation as noted earlier.

But as was also previously noted, in what I wrote in the first paragraph of this post about not being “exceptionally ‘brained up’ on the science of intellectual discourse or dynamic communication.”…

Well….. screw that.

What I meant to say was:

The wider the scope of perceptive disciplines engaged during the conveyance of information, the deeper the focus of receptivity.

That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

-Jon Jones
aka MrPresident

Posted by: MrPresident at January 30, 2008 5:03 PM

Hey Ze!

Stay away from my ka!


: )

Posted by: Brooke at January 31, 2008 8:16 PM

Hi Ze,
Hadn't checked your site in a while and am so happy that I just did.

The question of audience is one that I think about every day. I'm a
painter. I do it full time and I do it alone. It's very easy to feel
at times as though I'm in a vacuum, and the imagined audience becomes
very important. It breaks down into three parts.

Part One:
No audience at all. I often try really hard to forget that anyone
will ever see these paintings so that their content or execution
isn't tainted by what people will think, or whether the piece is
viable on the market. It would be easy to churn out a bunch of work
that I know people have liked in the past and have bought, but then I
wouldn't be growing or being honest with myself as an artist. Some of
my best pieces have come from this intentional vacuum, when I'm
thinking, "I have no idea why I'm compelled to make this thing which
very well may be REALLY dumb and lost on everyyone, but I have to
make it. And I feel like it should be pink." There's something very
important about this pure, intuitive creation.

Part Two:
Sometimes the things I make walk a fine line and could almost be seen
as "fantasy art" or some cheesy rip-off of an Audubon. I'll find
myself at a point in the painting where all of a sudden I'm like, "Oh
crap. Wait. Is this painting totally retarded?"
Hopefully the answer is "no" but it's times like these when I picture
a few people whose opinons I really respect and who know me well. I
try to see the work through their eyes. I never picture an abstract
audience, it's always specific people.

Part Three:
Average nine year old Joe technical guidance. The work I make is very
"realistic" (for lack of a better term) but I leave a lot of empty
space and play with the planes of the image I'm setting up. I have to
take a step back at times and say, "Is there enough information here
that your average nine year old Joe can figure out the space? Does it
make enough sense so that it's working to focus the eye of the viewer
and not distract or confuse them?" These are really just technical
questions, but they can be as important as questions dealing with
concept because if I can't properly communicate the idea in this
two-dimensioal medium, then the idea's shot, and there's no point to
make the piece.

All in all, I try not to make work "for" anyone. But as far as I'm
concerned, any artist that says they make their work only for
themselves and they don't care if anyone gets it, is full of shit. If
that was truly the case, you'd just get a much better paying, easier
job, and just think your ideas to yourself. Not that there's anything
wrong with that :)

Ok, thanks for bringing up this topic.
Hope all's well,
George Boorujy


Posted by: George at January 31, 2008 10:17 PM

Ze, the voices in my head told me to write this:

I design jewelry. Do I browse catalogs like Sundance, Silpada and the like? Sure. Do I "copy" their stuff. No. Mostly I am amazed at how much they charge. I might
*internalize some of the color schemes, or
*note that chunky pendants are in, or
*determine that chain dangly bracelets seem to be popular, or that chandelier earrings are probably going to be out of style within a few years, or
*realize that "fairly traded" isn't a guarantee that no Malaysian slave children were involved.

...but hey, I could figure that out by people-watching, or reading the trade mags too.

Actual Feedback:
That said... I sell at craft fairs and with custom orders through my website. More the former than the latter. So I can see within a day or two what folks like and what they don't.

One prospective "customer" was escorting his girlfriend/squeeze/wife around at a show I did, and at each booth, I could overhear him tell her, "you could do that. " On the one hand, it sounds supportive of his S.O.'s creativity, blah blah blah. Until they approached my booth, where he added the phrase, "any jackass can put beads on a string," to the end of telling her how she could do that. First I laughed. And when he backpedaled and said, "oh, I didn't mean anything by that," something snapped.
My retort went something like this: Yes, you're right, any jackass CAN put beads on a string. But where are you going to find the beads, jackass? And how will you know if they are good quality? Can YOU tell if something is electroplated or real? And how will you know you're building an heirloom quality product, one that will last? Yeah, I didn't snag either him or her as new customer that day.

And unfortunately, I hear that guy's voice in my head more than I like to admit when I am beading. But luckily, I also hear the voices of the folks who not only buy from me, but come to certain shows specifically because they know I'll be there. They see my schedule and like what they've bought previously so much that they want more. Or their friend who has something that they admired referred them.

Using Feedback to generate profitable Ideas.....
Ah, therein lies the rub. Because some days, everything I made the night before sells immediately. Other days, stuff I wasn't even going to display because I've had it out for so long sells instantly.

So between the actual comments and the buying feedback loop... I have an awful lot of homunculi in my head, trying to drive or quell my inspiration.

Pride of product:
I don't sell anything I wouldn't wear. I don't mean color or pattern, I mean quality. I'm allergic to nickel and sensitive to surgical steel, so I'm kind of limited to providing higher quality pieces than some folks. But in terms of the actual design, my dad's girlfriend said it best: "Someone will really like that." It might not be me, and it might not be her, but if the stuff is well made, SOMEONE will like it if you, the artist, take pride in what you do.

> -Jenn Putterman
> www.blahblahblahbeads.com

Posted by: Jenn Putterman at February 1, 2008 10:16 AM

I dont so much picture a particular audience but i try to appeal to as many different types of people as possible, as im on youtube i find theres alot of different things that people would find 'funny', whereas an obvious joke might make one person laugh, i would also include a sort of underlying joke throughout the video so that people who prefer the subtle sarcasm side of my videos would appreciate that i recognised what they would like also, i usually take what i can from the feedback, usually you find out quickly wether a particular joke worked or bombed, and the ones that work i would use them with a different layout.

Great question, i hope my answer does it justice.

Posted by: RightHandGenius at February 1, 2008 12:42 PM

Thinking on this a bit more I realize that rather than an artist to audience conversation I have an artist to creation conversation. After all it is the creation that must exist on its own in the world. At times it is me cross-refernceing the work with the future memory or the idea of it.

More often I just follow the thing through the wilderness. I wait for it to tell me when we have arrived.

Posted by: Awed Job at February 3, 2008 10:14 PM

from a cellists point of view at 4 in the morning.

having performed to varying degrees over the past 25 years or so..

from the stage, there are many possible ways of perceiving an audience -

thinking of an audience as an entity which critiques your performance.. waiting for a mistake..

The deal is, though, when you end up making it/them (unless the mistakes are factored into a blah evening), you're actually the one only one left who remembers them, and the audience --Even the professors and musicians you see in attendance--, who may or may not have perceived these, are left with a general sense of the performance.. Was it exhilerating, boring, frustrating.. interesting.. It won't stick with them unless it hits their 'highlights reel.' Like 'the bow went flying into the audience, taking off the old man's hairpiece into the third row' or 'when he tripped onstage and fell on the cello.. that was worth $30 right there, but I still say - an endpin's a bad way to go'

Or, you can try and impose your idea upon the audience.. you try and show them how it's done with your big ego..
or better yet, you're prepared technically, but end up giving a dead performance because you played the notician rather than the musician.

And there are more.. but after experimenting with these different devices, you either keep on doing that dance or just simply stop.. stop prescribing to your mind what's going on out there in the audience's mind.. stop telling yourself what kind of attitude or perception you must carry forward, stop considering what kind of expectations the audience has.

Start realizing that if you wait until you get in front of an audience - whether large or small, young or old, tense with anticipation or loose with boredom - to start contemplating them, you won't stop contemplating them, at least to some degree.

Now, it may come as a surprise, as audience in other fields is one of the first things you have to consider when marketing ideas or trying new things.. But so many of us musicians on the scene, and many more coming through the ranks.. spend way too much time practicing and not enough time living life and performing. The teaching we were brought up with generally takes us along that route..

What I have found through great teaching and concert experience over the years (most of which was good 'learning' experience) is that you need to think of yourself and that empty room you practice into hour after hour as being the audience. Every note must have some sort of 'directive energia', a plan.. The deeper the plan is woven through technique and the more alive you can make each moment of this piece of music, the less chance there is for an audience to take it for granted.. the more alive this experience may be for them.

The emotional involvement of this process has to enter in at the beginning, as well. It's either tied in with every note, or it's not. It's necessary, since many elements in that music are constantly changing.

So switching my thinking in this way has helped, along with projecting my thoughts, inspiration and experiences... hoping to make the musical experience, whether it be a Beethoven Sonata or some whimsical improvisation with poetry, one in which the audience becomes a person.. the same person that you have played so personally to in that practice room, the one for whom you have been practicing for hours, the one who wants this experience to be as inspiring as I can possibly be inspired. even though they might not have asked for it when they entered that concert hall.

A side note:I personally don't attend many classical concerts these days, the ones you pay for usually sound like the cd they just made. I like to get involved, so I typically see jazz or sometimes rock.. at least they're inspiring - so says the level of energy and the love and the individual voice they proclaim. I feel more like a well defined person in 1080p than a blob in a chair waiting for intermission so I can use a restroom with modern features and a big mirror that reminds me I'm bored.

Posted by: randy at February 11, 2008 7:28 AM

Most of my creative work is during improvisation, or improvisation-inspired. To understand where I'm coming from, I direct a long-format improvisation show, with several very talented performers.

So, my creative process has almost ALWAYS been under direct exposure of the audience. In fact, I find I do my best creative work when someone else is listening to me, and the creative whatever I'm spouting is a performance for them. I find if I'm not doing it for someone or for a deadline and I'm just doing it for me, then nothing really happens. I'm surprised that this seems to be the opposite of the majority here - who do it for themselves(?) Part of the improv teaching/tradition is that you always have to be thinking about your audience, and anything otherwise is worthless.
When I'm onstage, I'm placed inside an enourmous instantaneously feedback loop, where I can see the audiences eyes, hear them breathing and shuffling and often hear them laughing out loud. Being plugged in to such a large circuit as that is pretty powerful, but it can also be overwhelming and nerve-wracking. I've learned to be ego-less about throwing away things that aren't working fairly quickly.

Posted by: Dustin Freeman at February 19, 2008 11:45 AM

It seems to me that one should mentally draw a distinction between two very different audiences - the ideal group of stimulating individuals who are fascinated by your creation, much like the perfect dinner party, and then the difficult-to-please job interview panel, who hold your future in their hands.
The danger when considering your audience's reaction is that all but the largest of egos will be dissuaded from taking risks or being creative by doing so. It seems logical that the imagined audience will be a smoothed out median, which is a consequence of the desire for wide appeal. By definition, original work must be detached from the current consensus, and this points to the need to limit one's consideration for your audience to imagining what they can GAIN from the experience.
My personal example of the pitfalls of an internal audience was my brother's wedding. I was his best man, and the obligatory speech was the performance. I prepared in a freeform manner, which basically equated to gathering a loosely constructed set of anecdotes, with a view to stringing it all together when feeling inspired. Well, inspiration came on the eve of the wedding. By 4am, my inner audience had stopped laughing at the jokes, and the imaginary bread roll thrown by Great Aunt Offended was stale enough to cause visible bruising.
Time turned up as my saviour, though, and with some minor cleaning up for the sake of the priest and the older members of the wedding party, I went with what I had. Despite it being the most nerve-wracking moment of my life to date, the speech went down great, and laughs were laughed at the appropriate points.
The lesson I learned was that you will hamstring your inner genius for the sake of imaginary spectators, and the real audience will miss out on the spark of genius you cut because of pretend hecklers.

Posted by: Matt Cleere at December 28, 2010 3:23 PM

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