Monday, October 28, 2013

Rule 4: For Whom Do You Write?

     An interesting controversy has brewed in my brain recently. I've come to wonder if my purpose in writing should be for others, or more for my own enjoyment, with others' appreciation as a welcome side effect. At present, my conclusion is that I shouldn't try to write for others.

     "What?" you cry. "And what about all that stuff right up there in your very own banner? You talk up there about touching, helping, blessing people with what you've written. Now you're saying you don't think you should write for other people. What kind of hypocritical hack are you?"

     One who would like to explain. I don't think that my main focus should be on doing those things that I hope my writings will do. That is, I do hope that I can have an effect on others through what I write, but I don't think my main focus should be doing so. If I spend all my time trying to write what others will enjoy, I'll get stressed over whether or not I'm actually doing so. That will suck all my enjoyment out of the process, which will in turn damage my writing. It appears that I can't do my best work until I write what I enjoy; in essence, for myself.

     There's also a hesitation that comes to me when I say this. Isn't that a little self-centered? Arrogant? All those things you really don't want to be and others don't want you to be either? I hope not, and I don't really think so.

     It might actually help me be rid of those things. I would become arrogant if I thought I was producing something so wonderful that every human being could benefit from it. I'd be self-centered if I considered my powerful sermons something that everyone needs.

     In addition, I've seen what can happen when you try to force teachings, into stories, particularly. There have been two separate occasions where I experienced a fantasy novel with very apparent messages. I didn't disagree with them, for the most part, but it annoyed me how obvious it was. It was like they were trying to make their own Narnia or Middle-earth. I know, because I've been there. For a long time my book in progress has been a Narnia/Middle-earth look-alike trying not to be a Narnia/Middle-earth look-alike.

     The key, in sci-fi/fantasy writing in particular, and in all writing generally, is not to write to affect others. Write to affect yourself. If you're into speculative fiction, write to explore the places and situations your imagination dreams up. If you're in the more mainstream realm, write to understand what life is like. If you write nonfiction, write to explain the ideas you have. Is it selfish? Maybe. But at least it's selfish with the possibility of positive side effects, as opposed to altruism with little chance of reaching its end goal.

     No, I'm not writing for others, exactly. If what I do write could help someone else, that would be absolutely incredible. The paradox is that I can't really accomplish that goal until I stop trying. Only then is the pressure off, the ideas free flowing, and I'm free to create as I was meant to.

1 comment:

  1. By the way, I don't mean to say that altruism has no place in writing. That's part of where publication comes in. If something excites you, then maybe it will have a similar affect on someone else. So you also want to release your writings to others in order that they might be affected for good. (That, and an unpublished novel doesn't put food on the table.)
    -- Writing is for you; publication is for everyone else.