Why a Smaller Audience Might Be the Key to Helping Kids Take Creative Risks

Flash back to Tuesday afternoon:

I’m sitting down at the computer overwhelmed by the uncertainty of audience. I’m thinking about that technology training where I had wanted to show teachers how to use Google Drive for assessment . . . and then Google Drive was down. All day.

My mind meanders to that Wednesday evening class. I start wondering if I’m doing a decent job teaching pre-service teachers. Next, I’m thinking about all the people who have just started Write About, wondering if it’s working for them. I flip to my YouTube channel and find myself asking questions about audience and reach.

There’s a certain fear and uncertainty in putting your work out there to an audience, because ultimately it might suck. That’s true of teaching a lesson, recording a podcast, doing a video, or writing a story. The moment you go for an audience, you’re entering a risky place where rejection might happen.

That’s when I decide to make something for an audience of one. See, my son recently came up with a graphic novel concept and I want to make it for him. So, I grab my notebook and a few pens and walk across town to Chapters, where I sit in a barricade of books and remember what it’s like to create something for an audience of one.

When you’re working alone, you can make mistakes. Big mistakes. And nobody cares. Nobody knows. My composition notebook is a glorious mess of scribble marks and arrows and random sketches in the margins. It’s a wild forest where I can go wherever I want without wondering if I look like a fool.

Maybe the Answer Is a Smaller Audience

For all the talk of authentic audience, I’m convinced that sometimes the answer is to walk away from the audience and be alone. Write in a journal. Make a video for one other person. Sketch in a notebook for the simple delight of sketching. Make something for no functional purpose, with no audience in mind. Just be alone and create. Because that act is ultimately what helps you find your voice again and reorient yourself so that you can make something new for an audience.

This has me thinking about kids. I have found myself saying to people, “Kids need an authentic audience. They will work harder and care more if they are sending it to the world.” I still believe this. There are times when a global audience is a powerful thing. However, if we want kids to find their voice and to take creative risks, maybe there’s a time to turn away from the blog and open the journal.

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John Spencer

My goal is simple. I want to make something each day. Sometimes I make things. Sometimes I make a difference. On a good day, I get to do both.

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