Audience of One

07 Jan

I posted this on Facebook today, and reckoned it would make a good blog post, too.

*  *  *

For all you writers who are also people of faith, this is what I read in today’s devotional reading (“The Night No One Came”):

One winter night, composer Johann Sebastian Bach was scheduled to debut a new composition. He arrived at the church expecting it to be full. Instead, he learned that no one had come. Without missing a beat, Bach told his musicians that they would still perform as planned. They took their places, Bach raised his baton, and soon the empty church was filled with magnificent music.

This story made me do some soul-searching. Would I write if God were my only audience?”
-Julie Ackerman Link (Our Daily Bread, Tuesday, January 7, 2014)

Made me think, too. Although my short works have been published, what if there is no audience for my long-form fiction? What if the only one who ever sees it is God?

Last month, I set aside a couple years-old manuscripts that couldn’t find a home with a publisher. Long before then, I’d started writing new material for another old manuscript. I’ve already promised to finish this one mid-summer and send it out. Unlike my hopeful attitude with the other manuscripts, I don’t have illusions of this one finding a home. Of everything I’ve written so far, it is the most overtly God-honoring story, but it’s not a safe story by any means.

(In fact, I expect it to anger and offend people regardless of what they believe. That’s not what I set out to do, but that’s where the story has led.)

What about you? Even if there was no audience, would you still write, paint, dance, sing, compose, play, sculpt, speak?


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4 responses to “Audience of One

  1. theparisreviewblog

    January 7, 2014 at 8:18 pm

    I think it’s important to write, but we must understand that the point of writing is not to further ourselves, but to further the hope and faith of others. I think without that perspective our writing is dead. Great and interesting post! I have a literary review blog, so I’m always up for discussing philosophical ideals in writing.

  2. Peter R Stone

    January 8, 2014 at 11:00 am

    Hey Keanan, I suppose I would still write, but what I’d write would be completely different. With piano, on the other hand, to play just for Him for personal worship is a wonderful thing 🙂

  3. Keanan

    January 10, 2014 at 7:47 am

    Paris — We might not create in a vacuum, yet we don’t necessarily need an audience. Although I’ve written stories and essays and poetry to specs, much of my best work was never intended to be read. It has more honesty, more emotion, more depth than the stuff written with an audience in mind. It’s as if there are my “Sunday go-to-meetin’ ” clothes (the writing according to contest rules or publisher guidelines), and my comfortable clothes (the writing that’s truly me). The longer I do this writing thing, the more I realize that my best work isn’t written for anyone else but me and God.

    The novels and short stories still aren’t where I want them to be, because I know the audience is out there, waiting to be entertained or to judge. Knowing that, I temper my honesty. Not that I lie, but I hold stuff in reserve. Gotta work on that.

    Peter — Worship is always good, and should never be intended for an audience other than God. (Just my opinion.) Believe it or not, my worst poetry–I hesitate to call it that–was a result of prayer time in college. It’s as if whatever was tangled in my head was blurted out on paper. It ain’t pretty. But it didn’t have to be. It served its purpose. Most of it has been tossed in the trash. Thank God!

    • Peter R Stone

      January 10, 2014 at 8:33 am

      Hey Keanan,
      I took piano lessons so I could join the church band, for they needed a keyboard player, but I still would have done so if I’d never played in one. That’s why I made that comment, comparing corporate vs private worship – both wonderful. So yes, I agree, worship is always for God – it should never be a performance to a human audience, the audience are co-worshipers.
      And I really get what you are saying about writing poetry to God. It reminds me of the Psalms, where David poured his heart out to the Lord with such real emotions and struggles.


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