A few months ago I happened upon a post by another author about writing for yourself versus writing for the reader. It was one of those posts that made me grit my teeth, because it enforced an opinion as fact– as if all authors must fall under this woman’s rules. I like to break rules, as I am sure you are all very privy to now, especially those in regard to writing and being an author. This woman’s post went on a tirade about how authors who write for themselves are essentially screwing themselves and authors only exist because of the reader, so they should by all rights write exactly what the reader wants. I wonder at what point that will get boring for her, and at what point her writing will lack any passion or creativity. As a reader, I don’t expect anything out of an author other than writing an unpredictable, interesting tale that I can become invested in. If the author went in the exact direction I wanted, what fun would that be? Predictable droll, is what I think would result.
From an author’s frame of mind, maybe my perspective is skewed because of my own experience. After all, writing is this woman’s sole career (aside from giving away free advice that others should take it as it is, one person’s opinion) and writing is not my sole career. To be honest with you, I cannot even bring that thought into perspective. Without giving you too many details of my personal financial situation, let’s say I would have to sell upwards of 200,000 copies annually to get anywhere near replacing my current income. In a good year I’ve sold around 5,000 copies, ranking me as an Amazon Best Seller. That barely covered my mortgage for a month. Don’t get me wrong, for years I dreamed of being an author as a career, but as I get older that idea gets further and further away. Or perhaps my dreams have changed, because I actually love the way I write currently.
I write for myself. I view this as a symbiotic relationship between myself and the reader. We both gain something from this mutual relationship. I get to write whatever I want, whenever I want and the reader gets to read it and see my passion and creativity without expectations of what comes next. I’ve been a writer for a majority of my life, and while I cannot tell you what led me to write my first book, I can tell you one thing for sure. I write for me because it’s like breathing, it’s a mandatory function of who I am.
Whether or not I was publishing my works, I would still be writing them, so why not share them with people for them to enjoy? It goes much deeper than this, because as I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to use writing as a coping mechanism. It’s an art that’s helped to shape me into the person I am and to deal with things I still sometimes struggle with. As a teenager, I made some crappy decisions, and these led some even crappier things to happen to me. I didn’t know how to cope with them. I was afraid of coping with them, and that was one of the reasons that after ten years of writing, at seventeen, I all but stopped writing unless I was forced to. I didn’t want to know what would come out if I wrote. As it was then, my writing leaves me and my emotions exposed. I didn’t want exposure. I wanted to forget.
So I forgot, or so I thought I did–but no matter how I tried to I couldn’t. I had panic attacks. I felt I was spiraling even more out of control, because I couldn’t forget those things– I couldn’t bury them, but what I did successfully bury was myself. Then someone came along and reminded me of exactly who I was and why I wrote in the first place. So I started writing, superficially at first, and then I began to fess up to the things that happened. I dropped them as a thing that made me weaker and built myself stronger. And I realized that I needed to share that with people — to help people with a story that may not be theirs, as none of mine are my own, but that would help put them back together. Sometimes I write to heal the broken parts of me, and other times I write to attempt to understand the broken parts of you. We’re all broken, but what matters most is being able to take those pieces and put them back together into something greater.
I think that experience is stronger than an author writing a story for their readers. Every story I write has a piece of me; a piece of the world around me. Each story helps me grow as a person and author. It helps me to face my fears, to face the things that hurt me, the things that have damaged me, and maybe have damaged you. I realized that last year was the year where I let all of the stuff that has held me back drop. My novels show that, because I’m addressing things I thought I never would like alcoholism, abuse and drugs. I’m not holding anything back. I’m writing the stories that I think should be told; the way I think they should be told. If you’re a reader along for the ride, I appreciate it immensely. I don’t do this for the money, because I realize that’s out of my scope right now– but touching my readers is within my reach. That’s what I intend to do, and the only way I can do that is to stay true to me. We’re all broken, and I hope that my stories will help you to put some of those broken pieces back together. So I write for me, but I guess in a way I write for you too. I just don’t let certain requests become commitments. If you love one of my standalone novels, then you can flatter me by asking for more–but it probably won’t happen. It doesn’t mean I don’t know what happens to the characters, though –so if you want to know, ask–I’ll always be here to answer. And I’ll be writing another novel for you to swoon over that will make you think.
So readers, my lovelies, what do you want? An author who writes with passion? Or one that writes the story you want told, the way you want it told?
Authors, feel free to react as you will– this is merely my opinion and meant to make you think. Who do you write for and why?