Who Do You Create For?

Old theatre hall photo via Flickr Commons.
Old theatre hall photo via Flickr Commons.

In his legendary, lengthy interview with The Paris Review, Kurt Vonnegut poignantly points out that the person who influences your work and the person you do the work for are often two different people.

“When I asked you a while back which member of your family had influenced you most as a writer, you said your mother,” the interview prompts. “I had expected you to say your sister, since you talked so much about her in Slapstick.”

“I said in Slapstick that she was the person I wrote for — that every successful creative person creates with an audience of one in mind,” Kurt clarifies. “That’s the secret of artistic unity. Anybody can achieve it, if he or she will make something with only one person in mind. I didn’t realize that she was the person I wrote for until after she died.”

In his own Paris Review interview, fellow author John Steinbeck echoes Kurt’s philosophy. “Your audience is a single reader,” he says. “Forget your generalized audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death and in the second place, unlike the theater, it doesn’t exist. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person — a real person you know, or an imagined person, and write to that one.”

Do you create with one person in mind?

Source: The Paris Review

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Whitney Ricketts is CreativeLive's Senior Communications Manager. Email her at whitney [dot] ricketts [at] creativelive [dot] com.