Welcome to another HWS meeting! I apologize for the lack of cookies this time—it seems our funds are running low. Do you know how expensive it is to run an imaginary club? But never fear! I have a brilliant plan (brilliant, I say) for replenishing our horde, err, account. Hopefully I'll be able to reveal said brilliance next week or the week after.
We are gonna be rich, guys. I'll be able to put caviar on the cupcakes. Not that I would, because that sounds gross, but I could.
Anyway, today I want to talk about something that seems to get harder and harder in this social media age: Writing for yourself.
To quote one of my own tweets (classy, I know): I write for myself, so the story has life. I edit for others, so the life shines through.
When I wrote that, I was having a particularly rough day. I had to write some new material, and every time I typed up a sentence I would think:
"Is that right? Am I following all the rules?"
"Would my agent like that?"
"I wonder if readers would think that's boring."
"Does it contribute to the story? They say every sentence, every word, has to contribute."
"My friends will probably think it's weak."
"Yeah, it's weak. I suck."
Rinse and repeat until I was one frustrated ball of a writer. And then I was all upset that I was so frustrated, so I tried to figure out what was stopping me from getting the words out. I knew the story. I knew what I wanted to happen and that all I had to do was write the dang thing. What was my problem?
Then I realized I had too many voices in my head. Too many people I was trying to listen to while drafting. I was trying to please all these "people," instead of myself.
Writing—the actual process of getting those words on paper (or screen) for the first time—is a very personal thing. While writing can be very social, that time is all you. And it should be that way. You are the artist, the creator. It's your story and you can tell it however you want! Getting that story out, finished, is the most important part of a first draft. Everything else can technically wait. No, really. I'm not saying it has to wait, but it can.
I think we forget how important that is, what with all the advice and tips and endless lists of rules we find everywhere (here included!). We forget that's for after the creative process. It's for revising!
My dear friend Kiersten often tells me that, whatever problems my writing has, my stories and characters always have life. Now, I don't love hearing my books have problems (though inevitable), but I do find her words comforting. Life is important! And that life comes in letting yourself be free to create, explore, and just plain write.
I find that when I write for other people, not myself, I lose that so-called life. That's when my writing becomes something I'm not, when my stories don't work, when I fall "out of love" with the whole process, when I get extremely frustrated.
That first draft? It has to be for you and you alone. You have to think "If others like this story, great! But if not, that's fine because this is my work and I'm proud of it."
Thinking about other people's opinions comes after—that's the revision stage. And it's equally important, because revision helps that life shine through.
So I write for myself as much as possible. It probably sounds selfish, but I think that's really the only way. You have to write the stories you want to tell in the way you want to tell them. It's not about pleasing others at first, or ever, maybe. Sure, we hope others like our work, but could you imagine if Rowling tried to please everyone while writing Harry Potter? It would have been a mess.
This fall, I'm renewing my resolve to write for myself, not with the market or my agent or publishers or even my friends and family in mind. I will write the story I want to write! And I will call it Squishy! And it will be mine! Mwahaha!
Wait, what was I saying?