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An Audience, a Prince, and a Dance Floor

1992

1992

“This song,” the DJ says, “is dedicated to the lady in red in the middle of the dance floor.”

The Prince song begins, and I like Prince. I keep dancing. My friend C. laughs and points at me. “What?” I shout over the music.

“Red!” she says and swings herself around to the beat.

I look around and realize I’m the only girl on the dance floor wearing red. Get Off is the song. I stop dancing.

“That’s right. You,” the DJ says. “From the gentleman over here on the right.”

Several people on the floor look at me. I’m unsure what to do. I don’t want to see the guy who picked this song for me, but I can’t help it. The guy on the edge of the dance floor waves at me. He is muscular, tall, and black. His head in shaved. He has a huge smile.

I give him half a smile and turn my back on him in what I hope passes for a polite thanks, but no thanks. But it is hard to dance again. What kind of song is Get Off to dedicate to a girl? How am I supposed to react to that? The possibilities begin–He thinks I’m in this bar for a one-night stand but why would he think that because my outfit is not that wild and I’m even wearing flats with bows on them for crying out loud, but maybe he’s just clueless and the DJ picked the song and he’s a nice guy, but then again maybe he didn’t think at all and he doesn’t care how I react, like maybe it was a joke and I’m reading way too much into this and why is it that some girls can tell a guy like to drop dead but I couldn’t do that if my life depended on it, I mean, maybe I’m just not worldly enough and I ought to be complimented, but what if by ignoring him I’ve made him angry and he will he think I’m blowing him off because he’s black or will he think it is because of the song, and is this song really that bad…

C. leans in to me. “Come on,” she says. “Let’s go.”

Once you know you have an audience, the work changes. I was dancing one way until that song and a different way after. How I wrote my first novel was different than how I wrote the last one. How I write here is different than how I wrote in my journal (more consistent for one thing).

How has having an audience changed your work?

5 thoughts on “An Audience, a Prince, and a Dance Floor

  1. If you’re hoping for a male take on that story I can’t help. The mere thought of doing something like dedicating a song — even if I didn’t pick it myself — to a complete stranger, well… just gives me the creeps.

    The whole italicized stream-of-consciousness thought pattern, though: now THAT I’m very familiar with. It’s a wonder I ever decide to do anything.

    Hard to say on the audience question. I’m very conscious about wanting to please the audience (“please” being broadly intended — includes bolster confidence, surprise, challenge, even befuddle-yet-charm). It feels like the ultimate exchange of favors: I write, they read. It’d be hard for me to say which is the more… umm… generous half of the transaction, y’know?

  2. Oh writtenwyrdd! That idea just changes my thinking. Maybe that’s what he meant all along. Oh geez…

    JES, yes, the creeps, but some songs are more creep inducing than others. As for the transaction, well most relationships aren’t 50/50 every minute of the day, and so I would say that as in other situations, it depends on the reader, the writer, and the given moment. I doubt the number is fixed.

  3. I think writing for an audience has changed my writing for the better… but then, that’s because before blogging, I kept hugely introspective journals where I twiddled the internal workings of my mind constantly. So glad I got over that.

    But I think it depends upon the audience. If I imagine my college professors and the other people studying creative writing, I get really insecure and start to think I’m not good enough. If I imagine my old students, who loved my poetry, I get a boost. A temporary boost, since then I go back to the insecurity of thinking the professionals would think I was an amateur.

    If I think about the audience of my blog readers, it helps me to clarify what I am writing about. If I think about the occasional googler of “pregnancy pornography…” well, I just don’t know what they think when they actually get to my blog– so I ignore them.

  4. For me, there are different ways of having an audience depending on what I think their motives are and depending on how big I think the audience is. A few people, like a class, I’m fine. An auditorium, I freeze, knowing some of them hate me and I hone in on the scowls and yawns. I’ve had blog troubles in that sense in the past. So I’ve been protective with this blog, carefully only visiting and commenting on blogs I really, really, really like and trust and checking my sitemeter to keep my visitors really, really, really small, tending to know what blogs they’re from. One day, I appeared on Stumble, and instead of my usual average of 15-20 visits, I had 150 for a day. I freaked. I panicked. I was ready to close shop. But they were all gone by the next day, clearly looking for something they didn’t find. I like privacy, but I also like to share ideas, so a diary would be very, very boring and the quality would be shit. Knowing people read this motivates me to make it thoughtful, coherent and conversational, hoping to spark further thought and conversation. Like you do. Had I been in your situation. I would have left.

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