A Captive Audience of One


By Parth Raval

I write. I think it’s important to stay busy and I have binders full of pages that have never seen a pair of eyes but mine. Not all of it usable–some of it is very, very bad–but the material is there if I want to go back and revise it, work it into stories. I have a writing schedule and do my best to adhere to it. Sometimes I cheat. But mostly I behave myself.

This makes sense because I want to be a fiction writer. If I wanted to be, say, a lens grinder, you would think this behavior of mine peculiar. You may still think me peculiar when I get to this next part.

I don’t post any fiction online. Nothing on Facebook, nothing on Tumblr. I was unfashionably late in discovering what a “tweet” was. When asked by well-meaning passersby for an explanation, I can never formulate an answer.

“But you want people to read your writing, don’t you?” they say brightly. “That’s the point, right? Don’t you want feedback? Don’t you want readers?”

“Yes,” I say meekly. “But…”

But what, exactly? Why not put the writing online for my friends to see? I trust their opinions. They’re all good people.

You can’t take two steps today without bumping into a successful blog, run by an accomplished writer. With a lot of hard work and some luck, I could be Internet famous. Bloggers are the new superstars. Those ads make lots of money and I’ve been needing new shoes for a while. So why not?

The simple answer is that I don’t want to.

Putting fiction out in the world before it’s ready seems to shortchange the writer, the reader, and the work itself. It would be so easy to set up a blog and put up drafts for my friends to skim. More likely than not, they would tell me that they like the work (as I said, they’re all good people). I’m a sucker for validation and a couple pats on the back wouldn’t go amiss.

Validation can kill creativity though. Or at least it does for me. When I’m told that a draft looks good, I’m not compelled to work on it anymore. Even if it still needs work. Even if I know it still needs work. Blogs–heck, the Internet in general–make it so easy to share creative work with the world. With a few clicks, I could have a story online for everyone to see. But I don’t.


And that’s what has made me better.

By writing without an online presence, I’ve been able to focus on the aspects of writing that only I can figure out: subject matter, voice, style, all that. If I had a blog, I would be more worried about how many people read the latest draft, the comments they left, whether they shared it with others–everything, in short, except the work itself.

A blog would make me lazy. I don’t consider a day’s work done unless I’ve hit my quota, in either time or pages. I don’t presume that I can give good advice, but consider this.

What would happen if you made your creativity private?

You could understand better what makes you tick. How you see the world. You could see parts of yourself you never saw before. And you could do it entirely on your own terms.

Work on something a little bit everyday. Maybe you already do this or maybe you don’t consider yourself artistic. That’s fine. Try it anyway. Most people have a creative itch they’ve been wanting to scratch. Create art every day, make a routine out of it. Let it stack up in your room. Go for months without showing anyone anything you’ve made. And when it’s time, ask a close friend to take a look.

You may both be surprised with how far you’ve come.


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