Writing For Yourself

I watched an interview this weekend with Steve Martin about his latest book, An Object Of Beauty, where he said,
No matter how many people say it - 'Oh, I'm just writing this for myself', 'Oh, I'm just doing this for myself' - nobody's doing it for themselves. You're doing it for an audience. So whether I'm performing or writing a book or playing music, it's definitely to be put out there and to be received in some way.

When I heard it I scoffed. After all, I know people who are just writing because they love to do it. It's a hobby, and they will live happy lives even if they never find an agent or publish one word. I thought I was one of them.

Let's face it, we all know the odds are as high as our wobbling stack of to-be-reads that we'll ever get our novel on the shelves - astronomical, in fact. So surely most of us are doing it for the pure joy, right? WRONG.

Writing has always been a way to share feelings and memories; the key word here being share. Whether it's fiction or non-fiction, a short story, a novel or a recipe, even if you only plan on your friends and family reading it, it's still written for someone else.

This blog has become a place to share my dreams, my little accomplishments and my many setbacks with people who are like me and "get" it. For that reason I am eternally grateful to all of my followers and the wonderful writer/bloggers out there that I've been able to connect with. But now I realize the true reason I started this blog was to share all of those things with my kids. No matter how close you are with your children, you can't have full disclosure for a lot of different reasons. And right now, they don't want to hear me blabbering on about my life when they're busy with their own. But I'm betting someday they'll be ready to share.

Do you know anyone who writes purely for themselves? Can you think of any circumstances where you wouldn't want to eventually share your writing with even one person?


KarenG said...

I agree with his statement. And especially where writing is concerned. Writers need readers. Music needs listeners. Art needs appreciative viewers. It's a two way street. Even my blog I write for an audience and without followers or commenters I would give it up. Journaling is the only writing I do just for me. I have no intention of anyone else reading it. It's my therapy.

Julie Hedlund said...

I definitely have writing that I have absolutely no intention of sharing with anyone, but that is more often related to the circumstances I am writing about than the writing itself.
So I do think people can write in journals without intending to have an audience someday.

As for all other writing, I agree that we are all looking for an audience, or perhaps more accurately - connection. Otherwise it just becomes a, "If a tree feel in the woods.." scenario

HollyAnn said...

I like hobbies...in fact I have many of them. I would be so sad though if artists didn't share their works with us. The world would be a mighty sad and hollow place...and there would be no Etsy. lol

I think it's not about "who" I'm writing for. It's about writing "what" I love. I just started a WIP (YA contemp) that has drugs, gay relations, sex, violence....so many things that were outside of my normal comfort zone because I was tired of being restrained to: Will YA audiences be scared off?

The Sisterhood said...

I think you posed a good question. As a serious writer (or if you actually want to be taken seriously) you must learn to understand that you are producing a form of entertainment that needs to be appreciated in its own right. I don't like to read a novel where it's obvious the author was writing for him/herself. It usually weakens the storyline when, in fact, it would have been great if they'd left him/herself out of the process to begin with. I keep this in mind with my novels. Don't keep a chapter lingering around just because you like it. Ax it if that's what needs to be done.

♥ Mary Mary

The Golden Eagle said...

I write things that I don't really intend on showing to anyone anytime soon, but for the projects I really work hard on, yes, I suppose that is true--I want someone else to read it, to find out what they think.

Shannon Whitney Messenger said...

I do both. I have the main project, the one my agent knows about and my CPs help me revise and all the pressure is on IT.

And then I have my sekrit project that's just mine.

Helps me to deal with the stress of the OMGIWANTTOBEPUBLISHED dream without losing my love of writing.

Great post!

Joanna St. James said...

there is writing and then there is writing, of course I crave an audience. I am my audience but I know I represent a unique group of people who are like me and will love my stories

Lisa Potts said...

I'm always blown away by all of your great comments!

I thought about a private journal or diary, but eventually someone would read that too, even after you're no longer here, right? Unless you destroy it to protect those deep dark secrets.

Su said...

A lot of my writing is for my one-day children. :) So, I guess, I have an audience in mind all the time.

Although I do have things I've written down just to get them down, with no intention for anyone to read them. My parents used to have a disconcerting habit of finding those. :/

But yeah, almost everything I write is for sharing.

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

I do sometimes, but generally only journal entries and sometimes short stories. I don't have the time to devote an entire novel to something that I'll never share. I write books, blog posts, even tweets and FB status updates always with the idea that others will read it. You're absolutely right--aside from perhaps journals, we write with the intention to share.

Danielle said...

This was a great post Lisa! I definitely think we write things to share them. Of course, we write them for ourselves--b/c we HAVE to write them, to give them life and get it out there. But we do (Typically) want people to read the things we write. We want it to effect them the way it does us.

That's the beauty of the written word. It's written. Which means WE said something so someone else could read it. I don't know if you can have one without the other.

Great post!

Lola Sharp said...

I write in journals and some poetry that is definitely just for me.

Hart Johnson said...

There was a time I did. I journaled for a lot of years and feel like it really helped me PROCESS and in fact a college boyfriend who freaked about me not being willing to share with him put me off of writing for YEARS (literally). I have ALWAYS though, had fantasies of the novelist life. And the blogging thing DOES sort of merge my exhibitionist, inner nudist tendencies with my love of writing... maybe I've just gotten less inhibited about who knows what or something. (and there is the BONUS of realizing there are other people who process like I do--Who knew?)

So I guess my answer is YEAH... I think there are people who are doing it for themselves, but it's possible it's just because those people are still finding that writer self who is READY. (though I have a good friend my age who has written as long as I have who STILL is that cautious, so some people may never get there)

Rogue Mutt said...

I write for an audience...myself just happens to be that audience. Really if I had any understanding what other people wanted to read I might have published something already.

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