Thursday, September 20, 2012

Finding Your Audience

From Cheryl's Writing Crate

I'll never forget the first time I was published.  It was an essay titled "Yes, We Have Seven Children and We're Proud of It" which was published in The Providence Journal in its Lifestyle section on October 6, 2002. I was up at the crack of dawn waiting for our paper to be delivered.  It was a crisp Sunday morning, and I didn't sleep a wink knowing that my "big debut" was going to be delivered to my doorstop by 6 AM.
My very first published piece was
this "Thinking Out Loud" essay
which was published in October 2002
"Yes, We Have Seven Children -- and We're Proud of It!

That essay changed my life.  Because I had yearned to be a writer from a very young age but was discouraged by guidance counselors and others who said writers very rarely have full-time careers, I only toyed with personal journals to fulfill my desire to write.  Deep down, I always believed in my creative heart that writing was my calling.  So when I received the stamp of approval from The Providence Journal--I was good enough to be in print!--I caught a very strong second wind to do more than dabble in a notebook.

Growing up I had fantasized about my ideal audience.  I originally thought that women would gravitate towards my style--my heartfelt and insightful takes on family life, fantasies, romance, and above all the humor I managed to find in every day situations would resonate with them.

Now I had an actual audience, readers who were engaged by my story about raising a large family. Once I had a taste of that, there was no turning back. 

Ten years later, my writing career has exceeded all of my dreams.  I've been writing for two wonderful local community magazines for almost a decade. I have my own family/humor column, work as a freelance journalist, publish on-line, and became an author in 2010 with my first book, Pregnant Women Don't Eat Cabbage. Plus I am Macmillan Publishing's Mighty Mommy with my own column and podcast--and now I'm a blogger! I have to pinch myself to see if this is all real!

Not only has my writing career unfolded in unexpected ways, the audience I thought I was writing for has changed as well.  You see, because I had to steal snippets of time to write while raising my 8 children, I found that an audience wasn't who I aimed to please with my words; it was really myself.  

Writing is a substantial piece of who Cheryl L. Butler is and will always be.  I write to satisfy my passion for writing, not to get accolades from an audience--although I love connecting with my readers!

Having an audience that is drawn to my words is certainly a major component of writing, but fully realizing that I write because I simply enjoy it and I simply must do it to feel vibrant and fulfilled is even more important.

If you write in your own personal journal or for a magazine, newspaper or other venue--how do you feel about who is reading your words?  

Is an audience what fuels your writing passion or do you have other reasons for wanting to write?


  1. I almost cried while reading this post, Cheryl. Those of us who write, whether professionally or as amateurs, whether paid or not, published or not, ultimately it IS ourselves whom we must satisfy.

    I do not have a blog, though starting one has been suggested to me more than once. I don't think I'm ready, if ever I will be, to step into the realm in which my words are food for the criticism mill. I post on facebook for family and friends, and at times set a post to "Public" when appropriate.

    It would be nice to be paid, but it's also nice to be free to write what I want, when I want.

    Nice comments on my pieces are good, they are appreciated, even treasured, but without a single reaction I would still be compelled to write. It is part of who I am.

    1. Good Morning, Connie! We are so touched and thrilled that you've found our writer's blog, and that you've taken some time out of your busy day to leave comments! THANK YOU! So happy you can resonate with so much of what Kate and I have shared in our posts for the past six months. This blog has become a very treasured part of our weekly routines, and we can't imagine our lives without it. Knowing that another writer like yourself is benefiting and enjoying our content is more than we could ask for! Thank you for stopping by! Hope you have a wonderful weekend! Best....... Cheryl

  2. Dear Cheryl and Kate,

    Our school librarian, a good friend, knows my passion for writing and recommended your site. She is also the person who urged me to submit a portfolio to a writing group.

    The fact that you are fellow Rhode Islanders makes this discovery even more delicious.

    I had a rare opportunity today to browse and comment on a number of posts. What a pleasurable journey it was.

    Your site is delightful and helpful, full of common sense and humor. As someone who has been writing in some form for years, I am familiar with many of the ideas and suggestions you post, but others are new to me and intriguing.

    I have subscribed to your blog and look forward to seeing future stories land in my e-mail box.

    Warm Regards,
    Connie Ciampanelli