Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Finding an Audience Organically

Out of interest I bought a magazine about writing which included articles on how to get published, how to get an agent, how to get your blog read and so on and so on. It was an interesting read but I found myself uninspired by the whole process. I know I like to write, whether masses of people read what I write seems to be a secondary concern. It is, however, important to me that a small group of interested people is reading. Also it is important that I am as honest and truthful as I can manage about the process of mothering, farming, aging, creating, cooking and seeking higher powers. As a goal, that seems plenty to me. I didn’t read that anywhere in that magazine.

Last year, Sarah Harmer, one of my favourite singer/songwriters from Kingston, Ontario, released a CD (Oh, Little Fire) after a number of years of being out of the spotlight. From what I can gather from friends on facebook and in my opinion, it could well be her best CD yet. Her new CD literally played in my car player for 6 months straight, whether my children were with me or not. After a far too long bout of listening to ‘Best of Both Worlds’ by Miley Cyrus, over and over and over, this was a welcome release for us all.

What I found interesting was that I later learned that Sarah Harmer had done what few artists are brave enough to do these days when she finished her new album. In a world where music is all about internet ‘hits’ and concert ticket sales, she didn’t push it and she didn’t tour. She did a few shows and held a basic presence more reminiscent of the mid 90s (when she released her first with her band Weeping Tile). It is hard to remember the time before the internet swept the music business off of its feet with the beginning of Napster (file sharing/stealing software), You Tube, My Space etc.. In my view, she promoted this new piece of stellar art organically. This is by far one of the best albums I’ve heard in a long time and I bet it is getting just the right amount of listening by just the right folks.

At the beginning of her much anticipated follow-up to ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ – in another memoir called ‘Committed’ - Elizabeth Gilbert takes the time to make what appears to be an apology to her audience for having written the book that became one of the best selling books of 2006. Prior to writing these two memoirs, Gilbert had written some excellent works of fiction with small, loyal audiences, mostly and ironically about very strong male characters in typically male oriented environments. They are great pieces of fiction and the fact that she pulled off one of the most popular Chick Lit books in history seems to surprise her most of all.

Organic farming is about letting things happen naturally as much as possible. You grow a certain thing in a specific place and try to work together with the land to make it happen. That’s my take on it anyway. I have to admit that as a mother, writer, whatever-you-wanna-call-it, I can’t imagine why in the world I would approach any kind of creative project differently than I do farming.

What inspires me most is that it seems that one of my favourite writers and one of my favourite songwriters believe in the value of a small, relevant audience. I don’t know how one’s marketing approach reflects on quality of work. When I did my short stint as a singer/songwriter, the act of promoting my music killed my ability to write songs which was the one thing I enjoyed doing the most. I also learned that without creation, the performances and promotion alone had a very negative effect on the quality of my life.

I was living my life in strange towns, late at night, in places that I wouldn’t normally hang out, away from the people I most cared about. I tried to tweak the process so that the lifestyle would be more in line with how I wanted to live (outdoors, in the middle of the day) by seeking out daytime, outdoor festival type gigs but even that left me homeless and alone.

So despite all of the fabulous advice this writing magazine has given me, I have to admit that I’m just going to keep planting my little seeds on this little blog in whatever way I am inspired to do. All I can hope is that I am reaching out serendipitously to people who matter because they relate to what I am saying, not because I tweetered (Twittered?) my head off about it all.

Maybe one day I’ll feel compelled to seek a larger audience. Until then I will just keeping doing what I do and let things happen naturally.

Thanks for reading. You know who you are.


  1. thanks for giving us the chance to read...and not giving up just because the audience isn't huge! love what you're doing and I always look forward to reading your every post...sometimes even twice!

  2. Your seeds have fallen on fertile ground here. You shared what so many feel, perfectly. In my workshop I like to do things, and when someone with the best of intentions compliments me with, "Man you could sell lots of those", I suddenly feel all inspiration to create slowly ebb away. Thanks for the encouragement to stay the natural path.

  3. I think we all write (or paint or sing...) because we need to - not because of the need for a huge audience. I think the point is that if I ever find myself spending more energy on finding an audience than doing the work (as music became for me), I will surely lose the thing that brought me here in the first place - the need to write. Having written down my thoughts for 30 years this way, I actually feel awfully self-conscious with even one other person besides me reading :)


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