Saturday, June 6, 2009

Write for Yourself

I hear a lot of chatter about Writing for Yourself as opposed to Writing for The Market, or Writing for Publication. And when I hear that, I think, "Well, that's just silly."

Because who doesn't want to be published?

Isn't that why we're doing this? Sitting at our computer desks (or lying on the floor, or flopped in recliners, or taking notebooks into the bathtub) scratching out words so SOMEONE WILL READ THEM. And laugh / cry / gasp in wonder. And then tell us we're brilliant. And ask for more.

But. Maybe not. At least not always. Here's what I'm thinking today.

Once upon a more innocent time (1991-1993) I wrote nearly constantly. I was in college, scribbling out papers and assignments and tests, keeping lengthy journals, writing many letters (remember letters? Stamps? Envelopes?) and never having a thought of being published*. I wasn't taking writing classes (because I'd rather be reading books, thank you very much) and nobody was telling me how much work my writing needed. It was just coming out of me, like Soul Vomit. And I loved it.

Fast forward many years to the point where I had a finished manuscript sitting on a publisher's desk for months. And months. Agony. Misery. Woe.** I wanted that book published. I knew it was brilliant. I was certain it could change the world, or at least the course of teenage reading. I needed that book to be published.

And then it was. Like magic, except it took longer. And then I read it again, and felt the weight of its flaws, and questioned the sanity of the publication team. And then I revised again, and again, and once again, until we all agreed it was good enough (but nobody was saying brilliant anymore, which is as it should be).

So I wrote another one. One that made me laugh, sometimes in a rather unladylike manner. I wrote and shared and changed and rewrote and received critiques and rewrote and polished and rewrote some more. And as that manuscript sat for months on the publisher's desk, I wrote another one.

I worked daily on a story that a friend asked me to write***. And as much as I loved the idea, and pecked out a few hundred words a day, I didn't feel it. I wasn't in love with the writing. I wasn't even really in love with the characters that were coming onto the screen. In my head, yes. On screen, not so much.

So I put it aside. Saved in its own little folder, Ruby's Great Escape waits for me to want it.

I started something else. Something different, and a little silly, and maybe currently overdone in the market (no, not vampire romance - boarding High School, if you must know) but fun for me. And do you now what happened? At some point in the last couple of months, I have learned to love the writing for the sake of the writing. And as of today**** I don't care if anyone ever reads it. Or claps for it, or buys it, or makes it a LifeTime miniseries.

I have found the joy in the journey. I have captured the happiness of writing for myself. I feel the juice flowing early in the morning hours and I sit down at the computer not because I feel an overwhelming sense of duty, ***** but because writing is fun.

Writing is fun.

This may not be news to you, but I'm feeling it as a sort of breakthrough. I write not to earn money (*snort*), but because in my soul, I'm a writer. I write because I like to write. I write because I like to read. I write because God gave me a little talent, which seems to grow as I water it (and shrivel as I ignore it, much like the Wandering Jew in my family room). I write because I love words, and nobody really wants to hear me talk this much. I write because I'm a writer.

I am a writer.

*I may be lying, here - I distinctly remember printing an extra copy of a few particularly well-written letters and clipping them in my journal. Maybe I thought they were readable by someone other than the addressee.

**Thank you, Mister Sondheim.

***In fact, she gave me permission to turn an experience of hers into a story of my own.

**** Check back tomorrow for complete Position Flip (because a woman who doesn't change her mind doesn't have one).

*****Okay, often because of that, too.


  1. This is a beautiful post. It's exactly everything I feel about writing. I write because I love it. I write, even if no one will ever read it, I write because it's the lifeblood in me.
    Granted, I can't speak for the other looking-glass-publishing side of things (as yet) but I can say that it doesn't matter if it happens or not. I'll always write. Would it be nice? Yes. Would it be a dream come true? HECK yes! But is it essential to my happiness? No. But the writing part is.

  2. 1. I could have written this post because I relate to it so closely.

    2. Love the "soul vomit."

    3.Just this week we were discussing an Agatha Christie novel we read for book group. It's set at a boarding school and several people were like, "Yeah, set your next book at a boarding school! We love stories like that." No lie. So I think you're on the right track. I won't steal your idea because I don't write for YA. And also because people who steal people's ideas suck, of course.


If you want to say it, I want to hear it. Bring it on.