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Writing finds its own audience

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Except: Even God had a hard time holding an audience for long

My cousin is a big cheese in the world of women’s studies. She’s published a number of books and teaches some pretty astute, high-level stuff to aspiring Ph.Ds. Once we talked about why anyone would write and what’s the point, after all, since fewer and fewer read. (By the way: I always say this to my classes, that even a paragraph of copy scares many of us. All those words, they’re just, well, so much work.)

My cousin said something to the effect that you’ve got to believe your writing will find its own audience. That is a perceptive statement and I’ve wrestled with it since. I think it is true. I hope it is true. And I know it is false—at least immediately.

Meh. Another Sunset.

Meh. Another Sunset.

Social technologies and search let more of us find our long-lost cousins and brothers and tribesmen—the ones we never knew existed. We find them because they speak our language, possibly with our own words. And we know them because they are passionate about our topics—the stuff we think on constantly. (“You write about garlic butter too? You are my brother!”)

It’s just that it may take a long, long time for that audience to co-locate to your web address or your part of the bookshelf. Of course we hear and read stories of the overnight success folks, who start a blog on Saturday and by Tuesday they are talking with Oprah. But for more of us, we tell our stories and organize our arguments and spin them out into silence. But we must continue on with diligence, continuing to tell the story, as if keeping the porch light on, waiting for that audience to show.

There’s an old story about God giving his words to a guy and telling him to say the words. But know that no one will listen—you’ll be banging your head against a brick wall most of the time. And it’s all going to end badly. But those words will take root. And those words will blossom.

Eventually.

And over time the audience did show up.

And we’re still reading those words today, lo, these thousands of years later.

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Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

May 15, 2014 at 10:09 am

A Book is Written for Two Audiences

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Image Credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

July 4, 2013 at 11:24 am

Posted in curiosities, texts

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Fascinating: How Stanley Cavell Was Fascinated by JL Austin

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Gimme a bigger brain. I’ll settle for a bigger trigger of fascination.

Stanley Cavell’s uneven memoir about becoming a philosopher (Little Did I Know: Excerpts from Memory) is interesting and boring and interesting. Like a lot of philosophy texts, it calls to you days and weeks after you’ve put it down and made peace with never finishing it. I’ve checked it out twice and twice have not finished it—usually a signal I need to actually buy the book with cash money.

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Today I’m rethinking Cavell’s descriptions of sitting under the teaching of JL Austin when he visited UC Berkeley from Oxford. Cavell’s descriptions of Austin are not always becoming or charming. JL Austin was a brilliant philosopher but also a bit of a cad, it turns out. But what’s of particular interest is how blown away Cavell was by Austin’s “A plea for excuses.” It’s a pedantic text—like a lot of Austin’s writing. But for Cavell it was full of clarity and win and entirely energizing. Just based on Cavell’s enthusiasm, I’ll reread Austin’s paper.

Enthusiasm is humanity’s secret weapon. The boring teacher is the one unimpressed/unmoved/unchanged by the subject matter she drones on about. But the enthusiastic cheerleader for speech act theory or a particular camera lens or the lobster roll at The Smack Shack is enough to move me to action. As a copywriter I think a lot about how to present this priority or that piece of information so an audience will become interested. But human enthusiasm cuts through all technique and strategy, like sunlight burning off fog. Maybe that’s why word of mouth is the pot of gold every marketer seeks today.

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Image credit: Lia Halloran via 2headedsnake

Written by kirkistan

June 26, 2013 at 10:00 am

Axiom #102: Gifted men with an uneasy ambition

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Written by kirkistan

April 12, 2013 at 5:00 am

Posted in curiosities

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