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A question for the writers amongst us...


New Member
Do you write for yourself and your own enjoyment, or do you write to please other people? Can you really do both at the same time? Surely stuff that's written to entertain the masses is entertainment, rather than art?
Well, I figure if I don't like it, no one will.

But sometimes you have to make others happy. I used to write profiles for a magazine whose tacit goal was to flatter the pants off the subjects and make them seem really interesting to others, so obviously I had to make sure the person I interviewed was happy.

Right now I'm doing an extensive revision of a long work based on others' comments, so I guess I'm trying to make them happy. But frankly, if I didn't agree with their suggestions, I would argue against them.

If you try to please too many masters, you just get f**ked in the head and wind up with crud. If you pointedly reject the opinions and suggestions of others, you never get published. But fiction should always spring from the heart, I think. Otherwise, it's hollow.

It's a balance, grasshopper. Can you snatch the pebble from my hand today? Dang, Freya, give that back!
Well, if you only write for yourself, what's the point? What use does it serve? And what do you write, out of interest?

Listen to me carefully - when I ask these questions, I'm not being mean :p Are we clear?
Why would I think you're being mean.

Anyway, I write because I enjoy the act of writing. I rarely read the stuff I write, unless I have to read it because I'm continuing a story. No one gets to read my shit, except for my girlfriend.

I write fiction.

I haven't been writing much but poetry lately, though generally it's fiction. While I would like to publish something someday, I know that I'm not near ready for that, so I write for myself, because I don't have a choice. It would be like not breathing.
I write for myself. I write because it calls me. I write because it is me. I write because I enjoy it. Why do it? Why does the child run? Why does the flower grow? :)
I write, therefore I am.

I have wanted to be an author since I was four. I write because I have a million people and stories running around in my head screaming to be let out. I write because I have things I want to say, (some of which may even be meaningful). Which leads to my answer of "Both." There are some things I write for myself. There are some things I write to convey things to others.

Right now Cathy and I have two books on the shelves and a sequel in the pipeline. Hunter's Moon is commercial fiction. The world is one that has been bouncing around in my head and in discussions between the two of us for years. The goal was always for it to be published. But there's a short story I did that was strictly "art for art's sake" that is also out in an anthology now. I wasn't willing to make any major edits to it because it was for *me* and said exactly what I wanted to as is. I'm amazed it got published with me being so hard-headed about it.
Freya said:
Well, if you only write for yourself, what's the point? What use does it serve? And what do you write, out of interest?

Listen to me carefully - when I ask these questions, I'm not being mean :p Are we clear?

If I just write it can be for me. My kids can publish when I'm dead. If I write AND attepmt to publish I must believe that everyone has the right to hear my opinion--so much so that they're willing to pay for it. If I write just for the money--and everyone wants to get paid for what they do--chances are I'll probably end up having to swallow some crap often without a chaser.

Personally I often have stories I have to write down so I can think about something else. I am eternally hopeful that someone will pay me for them someday.
I've been writing so long that not writing seems unimaginable. I have three kinds of writing:

1) Professional. This is geared to an audience. I started out in journalism and now I do technical writing as part of my overall job as "consultant." I do this for a paycheck because I need to and find no satisfaction in it.

2) Personal. This is my journal, my thought-processing. It's sloppy and hand-written and would make no sense to anyone but me and sometimes even I don't get it. It's purely therapeutic and not meant for an audience.

3) Creative. This started out as letters to a friend, but then became something else. It's personal, but meant to convey my ideas to a third party; the challenge is finding a way to do that. It's very satisfying when I think I've gotten it right. I've shared some of this in non-professional ways, such as this forum, but when I'm writing, I'm still writing to that one friend. Would I or could I make a living at it or would I want to? I'm never sure about the answer to that.

Irene Wilde
This thread might not be anything especially insightful to anyone else, but it's shown me that there's a world of difference between me and you lot :p

I blame my school. Everything we did was governed by guidelines, and everything was done to achieve good grades - which means producing something that conforms to what some underqualified twit of a teacher (no offence to the teachers of the forum, if there are any) likes/wants. Stifled my creativity. And now the world shall suffer for it! Jus think of all the creative genius I might have come up with. :( Life sucks!
I would say I write for myself, and most of the time, it stays that way with it being just me who reads them. (I write poetry btw.)

You could say, well, what's the point, and I'd agree with you to a certain extent, but I also write a diary and no bugger else is ever going to read that, so again - what's the point? I suppose what I mean is that I don't think there has to be a point to it.

But occasionally I do want someone else to read them, although most are too personal. So I have started showing stuff to a friend of mine. I posted one on here in the Writers' Showcase forum. But that's about it. I used to show them to more people, but nowadays I'm more comfortable with writing for me and me alone - quite often they don't conform to any particular pattern, they are just my thoughts on a piece of paper. And I like it that way.

I think I've just rambled my way through this. Move along folks, nothing to see! :D
here's how I figure it: I'm swimming in perfection. drowning in it, if you wanna be artistic and tacky. :) however, for most of you, you fail to see but a very few things which your brains can embrace as being such. :) you filter and sort. otherwise you'd probably be overhwlemed and start writing screenplays. Ha Ha. :) as for me, I'm just more genetically inclined to define things in you that are perfect at each precise and transitory moment. :) it's curious to think that somehow the few pounds of grayish matter in your brains are capable of things the rest of the world is not. :) that is, at least, not in any fashion you can fathom. :) the way I figure it, something that would be perfect for your present moment will end up spinning past you. :) so where's the tie in?

I write for the same reason god exists. :)
Argh! My eyes! Can anyone tell me what bobby said, the yellow heads have blinded me with their light ARRRGGGHHHHH!
I write.

I write because I want to and I write whatever the hell I want. While I write because I want to and I enjoy it I don't see this as writing for myself. If I wanted to write for myself then I'd keep a diary and let nobody read it ever.

I'm confident that with the more I write the better my prose will become and, likewise, the possibility of reaching a greater readership. I know that with my first draftings I throw out a lot of ideas and strange phrasings but I'm happy to work through them until I'm sated with the product. It's my opinion that those who say they are writing for themselves are people with aspirations to become a writer but who lack confidence in their own ability and use it as a defence.
Freya, my dear, you need to develop a contrary streak! ;) "I WILL be creative IN SPITE of them all!!! They will not QUASH the beauty within"... etc., etc., etc.

What always got to me was when literature teachers tried to present that they "Knew" the "Only" message behind great works. I actually asked once, "OK, how? Did he write a letter to somebody that came out later saying 'This is the only point of the story', or what?" She answered that "It was the 'generally accepted' interpretation. BOY did I get in trouble when I answered, "Then nobody really knows. It could be something else entirely, or both what you said and what I said." Stimulated a MUCH more lively discussion than the teacher wanted to handle.
The imagined listener/Self-censorship

I agree with Abulafia. No writer writes for only themselves, though it seems that many will not admit that.

Writing is always an act of communication. It is a proposition: will someone (even the imaginary someone) engage with me in these ideas, in this story, in this mind thread? Even the writer with no intention of publishing thinks of what one would say to a friend, of posterity, of dead parents and lost opportunities to communicate. It is a one-sided dialogue (not a monologue), and there is always someone actively listening, even if only the ideal listener in the writer’s imagination.

Shitty first drafts should be written for oneself, with the ultimate goal of improving them so that they’re ready for someone else. But to say “I write only for myself” is to deny the essential act. Every writer should please him or herself first, but part of that approval is hearing your writing through a potential reader’s or listener’s mind.

Another related idea:

Self-censorship is often a very good thing. The value of self-censorship is that it, at its best and most functional, will force a writer to clarify ideas, give thought, be true. Of course if it stops a person from expressing anything meaningful, it’s not serving its purpose. Anyone going through that should sit down and write out all their thoughts on their frustration, what the “censor” is saying, what it sounds like, whose voice it is, and what you would say to it, how angry you are, what you want to express that it won’t let you. Think of it as self-therapy.

On the other hand, functional self-censorship has compelled many a writer to dance beautifully around ideas with language, to write at the edge of something difficult, like love or death, which is the essence of the poetic voice, and to hone their writing to a more expressive level. The best writing is not always “come right out and say it.” It is often softened, embroidered and even obscured by inhibition, and when the core emotion emerges through that, it can be wonderful.

This post is not intended as a personal criticism of other’s posts, but as an exploration and a theoretical refutation, pushing the subject just a little farther than the superficial. I hope it will be taken as such.