The personal is Universal: affecting an audience
The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say. ~ Anaïs Nin
One of the things that drives me as a writer these days is the desire to affect an audience: to make them laugh, feel something, examine their lives or themselves, alter their perspective, help them understand, or simply allow them to feel less alone.
Another thing that drives me is the desire to discover or communicate “universals” – those threads through the universe that connect us to each other, commonalities in experience… particularly those that people find difficult to articulate or express, or that people can’t see, or even probably actively avoid.
This sounds like a daunting task. After all, people are different: we respond to different stimulus, live different lives, have different realms of experience, different biases, prejudices, and ways of seeing the world.
But in actual fact, it isn’t.
Why? Because the “universals” lay hidden within our specific experiences.
I’ve been writing stories, both fiction and non-fiction, since infancy – it’s been a life long hobby/therapist for me. Occasionally, I’ve shared what I’ve written with others. Through this process of sharing, I’ve learned that out of all the arrangements of words I’ve put to paper, it has been the stories that I’ve poured my own emotions, experiences or passion into that have had the greatest impact on the reader. And the more specific, the more impact it seemed to have.
I’ve had more response for the story in the ‘About the Messenger’ page of this blog than for anything else I’ve ever shown to anyone, ever. When you have total strangers sharing with you that your words described their own lives and experiences, you realise the value and importance of always being honest in what you put out into the world. In that act of honesty, you have the power to help someone else understand or heal in a way that you may never know.
One of my oldest friends and I are writing a comedy/drama television series that will draw on our real life experiences and dysfunctional characters, as we were in our teens (those god-awful years) and early 20s (when things started to look promising, briefly… before a disappointing descent into god-awfulness again). On my desk, where most of it will be written, I have the following reminder inked with a giant black marker:
TELL THE TRUTH.
Because moving an audience isn’t rocket science.
You just need the courage to be REAL.