Sunday, December 6, 2009

Writing For Yourself

Everyone wants to be a published author, including myself. Who wouldn’t want to walk into a bookstore and see their creation sitting there on the shelf (or better yet, the bestseller table) bearing your name on it like a badge of honor? How many of us seek out the spot on the shelf where our book would be, nestled between the other published authors, and imagine that our mythical book is actually sold out? C’mon, I can’t be the only one.

Getting your writing published is the dream of every aspiring writer. It’s a form of validation for all that hard work you put into birthing a brand new story. Somehow, seeing the words you put down in story form on widely published pages means you’ve finally made it. For me, it represents a major accomplishment. It means the story I’ve been toiling over for who knows how long has made an impact on someone who has seen it all and rejected most of it, an impact powerful enough to convince that someone that my story must be shared with an audience beyond my family and friends. It’s the prize won from all that brainstorming, the crappy first draft, and all of the torment that goes with polishing that draft to perfection.

But what about writing for the fun of it? What about writing for an audience of one?

What about writing for you?

Stay with me, here. Writers want to write, right? Of course we do. We NEED to write. It’s as basic as needing to eat or sleep. Sure, you could go without for a while, but the need is still there, and eventually it will bring you back to the blank page. And of course, publication is a perfectly valid reason for writing. A lot of us write for publication, of course, especially the most successful of us. It’s not the only reason, though.

I write for myself all the time. When I’m not toiling over my trilogy, I create works that aren’t intended for mass consumption, which is always the concern when you’re writing something for publication. Writing to be published means you’re writing for the masses, gearing your written word toward reaching an audience. It means your concerns have elevated beyond asking yourself questions like “Is this paragraph structured properly?” to “Is this subplot appropriate for my audience?” A fine concern to have, to be sure, but sometimes writers just need to write for the hell of it.

Personally, I write for myself as a form of writing exercise. I use it to work on technique and voice. I’ve experimented with first, second and third person perspective, tackled various genres, and explored everything from my room to a bowl of pretzels in written form. It’s allowed me to work on dialogue, description, and pacing. It’s freeing, allowing yourself to write without concern of who might be seeing it or what they’ll think, because you’re allowing yourself to experiment and explore, and yes, even make mistakes. We should be allowed to do that every now and then, right?

Try it sometime. Come up with a subject you’d want to write about, but not necessarily for anyone else to read. It could be a love letter to your significant other or family member, or a hate letter to that jerk that cut the line in front of you. It could be a stream of consciousness work about what you’re feeling right this second, or it could be a confession about something you did when you were a kid. Whatever it is, sit down with your favorite drink and snack, pull out that pen and paper or word processor, and give yourself a goal of 1-3 pages. Then write. Just write, and let it all flow until the stream turns into a trickle. After that, you can do with it what you will, though I tend to save mine for future reference. You know, just in case.

Writing for yourself might not get you published, but it will get you writing, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. You might even surprise yourself with what ends up on the page!

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