Continuing this series of blog posts that reflect on the process of writing.
Today, it’s ‘Who do you write for?’
When I first started writing seriously, I had a vague idea that I wanted to write the kind of books that would move people as much as I was moved when I read life-changing books as a child. The kinds of books I fell in love with and read over and over again.
But the longer I kept writing, the more I surprised myself in my writing by discovering a theme or an image or a character or a connection that could only come through in the writing itself. And that’s what keeps me writing, although it sometimes co-exists with other intentions.
Julia Cameron has said that she wrote her first pieces to attract the attention of a boy in her class who she had a crush on, and there may be other reasons for writing, but ones that a writer might not publicly admit to. To write for someone who is published in the same magazines as you, or who did better than you at school and who you feel in competition with. To write because you feel that a certain person isn’t listening to you. To write because you lost somebody, and you want to remember them before you let them go. Or because you can’t remember but you can imagine.
The writers who answered this question almost all mentioned that writing for themselves was important to them. Poet Chris Kinsey says, ‘I write for myself in the sense that writing is an important part of how I think and construct my experiences and memories’. Poet and artist Juli Jana says ‘I write to process experiences’.
Publication and public readings mean that the idea of an audience and reader might either help or hinder the writing. Our writers found that gaining an audience was generally helpful. Poet Mavis Gulliver enjoys attending a writer’s circle. ‘There’s a fortnightly challenge to write for that’. Poet Juliet Wilson runs a popular blog, Crafty Green Poet, and is also active on Twitter. She says of her growing audience ‘I generally bear them in mind’. Poet Judith Blakemore-Lawton writes for children and says that ‘I expect them to interact and join in and share the appreciation of mood, fun, an incident recalled.’
Heather Sellers, in Page after Page, suggests that we ‘work today with the habits of the writer you are going to be in five years.’ For example, a closet writer, a famous writer, a one-hit wonder writer, a struggling-against himself writer. This is a humorous exercise, but it’s hard, and you have to be honest with yourself. But my result revolved around keeping on writing to surprise myself, and hopefully still to move other people. And I’m happy with that for now.
Tomorrow, a Big Question: Why do you write?