Okay, so this was pretty much incredible. (Picture from Catherine D)
This is the second in the Paradox of Creativity series. Today's paradox is: To reach a larger audience, you have to think smaller.
This morning I got the opportunity to Skype with a group of classrooms in Canada. I loved the random questions they asked. They were thoughtful, earnest, deep and yet simple. Some of them even dressed up in costumes. I could tell that they were excited about the next chapter in the read aloud. The whole experience was amazing.
And yet . . .
I didn't write the book for kids in Canada or for kids in Chicago or for kids in Los Angeles. I wrote the book (along with my wife) for an audience of three. I wanted my two sons and my daughter to love the story. I wanted to see them laugh. I wanted to see them beg for another chapter. I wanted to see them ask questions and draw pictures and get lost in the fantastical world we had created.
It's a strange, sort-of paradoxical lesson I've learned about creativity. When you make something for a small group (or even a single person) and share it, you end up reaching a larger audience. However, when you start with an abstract concept of audience, you fail to reach anyone. The work becomes either too vague and distant or too safe and too calculated. On the other hand, when you make something for one person, that work somehow becomes more accessible to others.
If you want to reach a larger audience, think smaller. Make something one or two people will enjoy and if they love it enough, they will share it.
I mention this because I forgot that. I wrote and re-wrote a book for nearly two years. I read books on storytelling and paid attention to trends. After the success of Wendell the World's Worst Wizard, I felt like I had to create something bigger. I had to write for an abstract audience. I wrote three books last year and they all fell flat.
Then, this last December I sat down and wrote a first draft of a story for my daughter. One story for an audience of one. No numbers. No imaginary readers. Just a book for Brenna. Christy is now working on the revisions and someday we hope to release the book. But before any of that happens, I want to get the story just right for my daughter. And if she loves it, chances are other kids out there will as well.