I’ve seen it a few times. People saying that ‘writing for yourself’ is a myth, nonsense, horrible lie… and any other such words including countless variations on lying to yourself and unpleasant truth.
Are they right, though? Not completely, I’d say.
Yes, writing needs to be approached seriously if one hopes his or her story to be read – unless it’s in some intentionally unserious form like parodies, memes, smut, or something along these lines. Still, I believe that even at a serious level, one can write for self.
Before I elaborate on my opinions, I guess the first thing to be said is to make one significant distinction: how the person got to writing. There are pretty much two main possibilities.
Option A: writer since ever.
Not the best way to call it, I know. I hope it gets the message across anyway. By that, I mean people who probably knew in a young age that they want to go this way. They were intrigued by it as children and studied journalism, linguisitcs, or literature – and it was their first choice. They wanted, since the start, to make a living out of their writing.
For these, most of the arguments I saw on ‘writing for yourself is a lie’ actually make sense. After all, if you aim to make a living out of something, there will be compromises, goals, deadlines and anything else most (if not all) other jobs have.
The point is, I am not one of these. I am not talking about these. Hence, we come to…
Option B: hobbywriters.
Which is where the twist is. If you’re having something as a hobby, no matter at how (un)serious level, you are doing it for yourself first and foremost: to spend your free time in a pleasing way, to let your mind wander without barriers, to dream up stories. And, mainly, to have fun doing it. If you are truly a hobbywriter, you (most likely) have no pressure on you and the only deadlines you have are those you give yourself.
I can understand that there’s still the main argument I’ve seen:
If you are writing a book, you’re doing it for other people to read. Otherwise, you’d not put it on paper.
Sorry, but nope. That’s not strong enough to dismiss ‘doing it for yourself’. Let’s get some cross-hobby example from my own life.
I am a hiker for over 20 years. I’ve been doing it for myself – to improve my health as the main reason, to see new places and enjoy being outside as the following ones, with some others coming later – inspiration, clearing my head, whatever.
If I don’t go alone and invite someone to join me, or help (co-)organizing a hike for a club and, thus, an event for 50 people, does it suddenly turn from ‘doing it for myself’ to ‘doing it for others’? I don’t think so. It becomes both, in most cases. And, in most cases, I still do it because I wanted to see the place – and decided to give a group of people to opportunity to do the same.
In exactly the same way, I see my writing. I am doing it for myself first and foremost – to challenge myself in thinking and creativity; to improve my writing, communication and language skills; to learn new things and, eventually, to see how the story ends. Which gets me to gut the last part:
“You’d not put it on paper.”
I was in that stage for over ten years.
Ten friggin’ years.
When I started writing, I was still as clueless to the story’s full plot as I was at the beginning of that decade. So, sorry. Without actually putting it to paper, it had no chance of being complete, even in my head.
I had to put in on paper to see the story progress and evolve. Only then it gained complexity, more characters; depth to characters, events, and worldbuilding. Only then I started seeing more than a few memorable events. Only then I started seeing how those events flew from one to another.
So, to wrap this up: If you see someone, no matter how respected or educated, trying to debunk something that you feel is true, think about the context and point of view. And if you write for yourself, like I do, keep going. Keep dreaming. I know that every reader that might, in the end, read my story is a gift. I don’t know how many they will be. Maybe five, maybe five hundred. Whatever it is, I’ll know that I went on the journey because I wanted to, because I did it to have fun and because there was a chance that I might maybe pass a bit of that fun to others.
Hold on to your dreams, if you think them feasible. Share your thoughts in the comments if you feel like it. See you next time.