I have noticed that writers sometimes believe they fall into one of two camps: those who feel they are writing for themselves, and those who feel they are writing for their readers. Those who believe they are writing for themselves say: I can only write what I like to read. I am the only one present at the desk while I write. In this way, I please myself, and then hope there are readers out there somewhere who will be pleased as well.
But those who feel they are writing for their readers point out that without the readers, writing would be a wholly different experience. We aren’t professional diary writers. We write to get paid and to be read by other people. If you are only writing for yourself, why bother submitting for publication?
I have come to understand recently that all writers exist in both camps. In fact, all humans exist in both camps. We are all of us living and writing for ourselves, doing what we can to create what pleases us. Yet without those other people, the readers and the friends and family and co-workers and strangers, not only would creation be impossible, it would be meaningless.
There are two moments within the creative process where I most clearly understand the value of what I have done. The first is when I find that which I was trying to share, that moment that feels both like discovery and remembering, a satisfying return to something I had forgotten I misplaced. The other is when I learn that another person feels similarly about what I had found and shared. How much harder at that moment to maintain the illusion that I was ever alone at the desk, or that any one thing actually belongs to any one of us.
Write Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion.
“A book to keep nearby whenever your writer’s spirit needs feeding.” Deb Caletti.