Do you write for your audience, or do you write for yourself?
“I write for myself” sounds nose-above-the-crowd. It’s I-don’t-care-what-you-think. It’s writing-satisfies-me — and that’s all that matters. It kind of sounds cool and literary, too.
Once upon a time, I only wrote for myself. Granted, what I wrote was not good enough for an audience, but I really did just write for my own enjoyment. I loved putting stories together in strings of words that sometimes — but not always — did what I wanted. I loved editing those words and changing those storylines, but I didn’t love sharing them. I didn’t really want to. Yet.
But writing is about so much more than the writer, and it’s about so much more than even writing. It’s about sharing.
Right now my mom and sister are reading my novel, The Inbetween, and I’ve been reveling in this sharing. My mom and I had this “argument” last night about the two main love interests, Noah and Esmund, and which character was better. It went like this:
Mom: Noah has such a nice heart.
Me: But Esmund is … hot.
Mom: But Noah’s heart is in the right place, and Esmund is messed up. He is messed up.
Me: But Esmund has a black truck and he’s the football QB and he’s hot and he’s … cool!
Mom: I like Noah. Poor Noah, he’s going to get hurt.
Well, it didn’t sound exactly like that, but we did get sort of heated (at least I did, because I love Esmund) and it went on for quite a while. And I just had to laugh, because it gave me such joy to know that my mom and sister connected with something I had written. They cared enough to argue a little, get heated, get sad. I love that. It makes writing so much more worth it, to me, than just writing for myself ever could.
I think, in the end, we writer-types need to find balance between finding joy in our personal writing — and finding joy in sharing it. Sometimes sharing work is depressing. My sister told me that Luke, the main character’s brother, is boring, and she skimmed through all his scenes. Sad day.
But when we say, I write for myself and for my audience, not one or the other but both, we can revel in the ups and downs of a bigger world.