CRY Magazine
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CRY Magazine

This is an email from CRY Academy, a newsletter by CRY Magazine.

Write Like You’re Putting On A Show

When I sit down to write every morning — be it pages of my novel or short pieces like this one — I’m thinking of how it will be received. I’m punctuating my sentences to create a certain rhythm or structuring my story arc to build the tension necessary to keep readers intrigued. I know people will read my work and so I’m intentionally trying to put on a show.

I’m a performer. And like every great performer, I’m creating to please an audience. In no way does that mean I’m not writing stories that speak to my heart. It’s actually quite the opposite. The more excited I am when writing a story, the closer it is to my soul, those are the pieces that usually attract the most attention.

In fact, some of my more popular pieces are LOSER, in which I describe a moment between my daughter and me when she was five, or My Failures As a Father where I go even deeper into my insecurities about how she was raised. My first book was a novella that fictionalized my entire life. That book sold thousands of copies.

When I’m creating these pieces, I’m no different from a choreographer orchestrating a ballet or a musician recording a song they know will be streamed or performed on stage. I’m writing for public consumption. John Grisham doubled down on this. When I recently sat in on a talk with him and John Irving, he referred to himself as an entertainer and his writing as entertainment.

I know this isn’t the case for all writers. Someone posted this article in one of my Facebook groups. It’s an article titled How to Be a Writer and Still Get Really, Really Rich.

It’s an interesting read, but the comments in the group were even more eye-opening. Some writers called her entitled or spoiled. Others admired her success but admitted that their goal wasn’t to make a bunch of money from their writing. A few said they couldn’t even relate.

I was confused by the criticism. This author, Jessica Knoll, had a purpose for her writing. She stated from the beginning that she expected to have success.

“I wasn’t hoping to continue to work in magazines and also publish books on the side. I wanted this to be my full-time job. I didn’t want to be living a starving artist life, either. It sounds vague, but I wanted something big.”

And she got something big. Reese Witherspoon signed on to produce the movie rights to her first book, and TV rights for her second novel were picked up by the producers of Big Little Lies. In order for any of this to happen, the author knew she had to perform. She wrote to entertain a crowd and now the masses are engaged by her words.

I’m writing to be heard

My thing is, if I’m taking the time to think of words to type on a screen, spending time and money to improve on my craft, either posting or publishing words that others are going to read, then you better believe I want it to be recognized and celebrated by as many people as possible. And when there are opportunities to monetize, I’ll take as much money as they want to give me because I’ve worked for it.

A performance demands a crowd. It requires spectators to revel in its brilliance or failure to deeply engage their emotions. Make no mistake about it, the moment you hit publish, you’re part of the show. People will be reading, which means they’ll be judging, which means you better be confident in the work that you’re putting on display.

Maybe it’s fear?

I think when writers play down their need to be read, it’s like a defense mechanism against rejection. It’s basically saying “I don’t care if people read my work because that’s not why I write.” And maybe some writers do truly feel this way, but my gut tells me that the large majority of us do care. We want to be heard. We want to be appreciated. We want to be well compensated. We shouldn’t be afraid to articulate that.

Because isn’t the point of writing to share our stories? And through these stories, we initiate emotional connections with our readers who are somehow moved by the words we’ve written. Even if we remove any monetary compensation, writing is art. And art doesn’t become art until it is consumed by someone other than its creator.

Writers are performers, and in the best kind of way, because it’s not us on stage. It’s the words we create that get the glory. It’s the worlds created by those words on full display for everyone to see. What could be more special…

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(Creat)ivity + (E)motion | A Medium Publication for Creatives Navigating Emotions

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Kern Carter

Kern Carter

| Read about my life as a full-time writer | Stories about Parenting, Passion, and Profit | Author of BOYS AND GIRLS SCREAMING

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