The Freelance Life / John Steinbeck's Audience of One


A few weeks ago while deep in procrastination-led research, I stumbled across an article titled The Art of Fiction, where writers from The Paris Review had created a curated compilation of advice for writers by John Steinbeck. Though filled with great moments of wisdom, I found his discussion about 'getting started' particularly insightful:

'It is usual that the moment you write for publication... one stiffens in exactly the same way one does when one is being photographed. The simplest way to overcome this is to write it to someone, like me. Write it as a letter aimed at one person. This removes the vague terror of addressing the large and faceless audience and it also, you will find, will give a sense of freedom and a lack of self-consciousness.

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. In writing, your audience is one single reader. 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.'

Steinbeck's advice was meant for writers, but I've found it relevant to design, illustration, and in particular when working in your own freelance environment with no co-workers to lean on for assistance. Sometimes when you are constantly surrounded by Pinterest, Bechance, Dribble, and Twitter it can be calming and comforting to begin a new project with one person in mind - it could be your partner, your friend, or an imaginary figure who fits your projects intended audience. This way the opinions of others can quieten, and you can focus on your craft. 

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