I have a confession. I lost my way on the writing path…
I seem to have forgotten my own definition of “success,” which is not about money and not even necessarily about visibility. My definition of success as a writer is creating work that I am proud to share, work that I myself enjoy reading, and work that connects with someone out there. The point is to capture something about the world, to distill pieces of reality into my weird speculative fiction. And instead of doing that, I’ve been obsessing over writing work that will “sell,” or that will be popular.
In regard to my writing here on wordpress, I blame Freshly Pressed. Now, before there is any confusion, I must say that I think it’s great that it exists. It makes perfect sense for wordpress to select posts that they feel would be entertaining or illuminating for many people and help them reach a wider audience. I completely get that and I applaud everyone who makes it into that category (although I guess some people don’t think of it as such a big deal). What bothers me is that the selection seems arbitrary to a certain degree. They have made posts that explain what makes a post more likely to become Freshly Pressed, but those posts don’t fully explain it. I’ll still go through them sometimes and think, “these posts aren’t better than my posts. I could be Freshly Pressed.” So then, I try to think of what I could do to make a post that would be featured by wordpress, or maybe “go viral.” This is a terrible approach.
The way I see it, there are three basic ways to approach writing. One is just as a hobby, and that to me means that it’s something that you enjoy doing but isn’t incredibly important to you. The other two ways are: writing to make money, and writing because it’s in your soul and you can’t possibly be happy if you don’t. Writing as ART. Writing as art does not often overlap with writing popular works. There are plenty of popular books that can be considered real literature, but it seems that the majority of the moneymakers in the publishing world are NOT impressive literary works.
Being popular as a writer should not matter to me. You have only to look at the Twilight books to see that the masses are not the best judges of quality. That is, being popular as a writer should not be how I define success; but it does matter. It matters, and I will tell you why.
It matters because although I am writing for myself, I do not exist in a vacuum. I have to write for myself, because I am the first person who will ever read it, and I certainly believe the saying that if I don’t want to read it, no one else will either. However, the intention, after that first viewing, is to reach as many people as I can–to connect, even with people I never meet. To express for my readers things that they cannot find the words to say themselves. To allow my readers to enter the worlds I create, whether in a meaningful way or as pure recreation. And none of that can ever happen if I can’t get people to read the work.
I think that becoming well-known, maybe even being able to support myself financially, as a writer will always be a dream of mine, whether or not I ever come close. For now, I have to put that aside and find my way back. I have to remember that I am writing for me. Plenty of readers seem to like what’s come out of that approach in the past… I’m sure some will again.