Do You Write For Yourself or For Others?
I like to write, no doubt about it! If something in my life prevents me from writing for even a few days, I get antsy. There's just something important about writing -- like if I don't write, the universe will begin fading until it eventually blinks out of existence.
No pressure, right? Just don't forget that the universe and everything in it is depends on me to write my essays and posts. Haha! I don't know if that mental image is "writer's ego" or just my "over-active imagination" (as my Mom used to say all the time)!
But here's the thing -- although I feel a personal urge to write regularly, the truth is that I don't write for myself. I absolutely write to be read by others. Writing is not a solitary experience for me. When I write, it's always with an audience in mind. Even while I'm writing an essay, I imagine people reading it. It's both exhilarating and scary to think this way!
I have a number of friends who are writers and bloggers. And nearly all of them claim that they write for themselves. Well, I'm sorry, my writer friends, but I don't believe you for a second! You write to be read, you crave to be read, you live to be read -- admit it!
I'm writing this now because I had breakfast this morning with one of my writer friends. She asserted with great certainty that she writes solely for herself. And then she cursed like a sailor (she's a great curser!) over what someone had said about something she wrote. Ha! If you write for yourself, why do you care what readers think?!
I'm the reverse of my writer friend in a way. I don't feel that my essays and stories really exist unless others read them. I deliberately write with others in mind, but I'm not extremely sensitive about their opinions of my essays. Of course, I like positive feedback -- it's genuinely uplifting (and incredibly kind) when someone praises your work.
However, for me, the main thing is simply that people actually read my essays -- I mean start at the beginning and read it to the end. Feedback is wonderful, even if it's not glowing, because that's how I know the essays have been read. And if people read my essays, then they exist and the universe is safe, at least for a while!
There are "experts" who advise you to write for yourself. I don't know -- maybe that's a good idea. However, so much of my style has been shaped by the desire to communicate with readers. For example, punctuation and grammar are important to me, not because I'm a stickler about such things, but because those things help readers pick out the meanings and nuances I intended when I wrote a piece.
And word choice is an exquisite torture. If you are concerned that a reader understand what you are trying to express, then choosing the "right" word is crucial at so many points in an essay or story. I'm even convinced that the right words for many things have not been invented yet!
Now, if I were writing solely for myself, then I think I would be much less concerned about refinements such as punctuation, structure, and word choice because only I would need to understand my essay. I would be communicating only with myself (a truly scary thought), so presumably I would know what I meant better than an unknown other.
However, I guess there is a part of my writing that is primarily for myself -- that's the choice of subject matter. Although the posts and comments of others can definitely influence my essays, for the most part I write about whatever has grabbed my attention at the time. So my posts tend to hop from topic to topic like a kangaroo. However, having picked a subject, I try to write about it in a way that will connect with readers.
You know, it strikes me that maybe there is a dark side to why I write for others. If I were writing only for myself, then I would always be unhappy because I'm never satisfied with what I write. I mean, sometimes I get a sentence "right", and, joyfully, I sometimes get an entire paragraph right. But I never get a full essay or story or post right. So maybe the reason I write for others is because I'm such a damn ruthless critic of my own writing?
Anyway, I hope that lots and lots of people are reading this essay. In fact, I hope that all the creatures in the universe are reading this essay because our very existence depends on it!
[I'm curious what other writers and readers think about this. Am I full of nonsense?]
Top image: From "Unoriginal Images"