The Reason for Writing

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.

Reason #2 for Writing

Preface: The first reason, for someone who is a writer by nature, for whom writing is one of the most fulfilling things we can possibly do, is that we have to.

When I was in high school, and a bit in college, I used to write fanfiction. It was mostly Harry Potter, with a bit of Wheel of Time and some other stuff thrown in there. I liked writing stories that put Hermione together with Draco Malfoy. So entertaining.

I usually try to keep all that separate from this blog and anything else I write now. Although certain books that shall not be named can make obscene amounts of money by starting out as fanfiction (and at least I also write well…), I am not looking to just make money. For my writing career work, I want people to see the writing I have inside me that isn’t trying to be popular or build on someone else’s empire, but is just me saying something… I feel as if that was not as eloquent as I wanted, but hopefully you know what I’m saying there.

I also try to keep my fanfiction days separate because it’s kind of embarrassing. It shouldn’t be, because thousands of people did it, and I would venture to say that my fanfiction pieces were much better written than most of them. However, I still want to blush bright red and hide my face behind a pillow until all mentions of fanfiction go away. I think the thing is that I can’t take it seriously myself, so I don’t really want to publicize my silliness.

However, since my fanfiction stories are still up on the site, people are still reading them and sometimes I still get reviews for them. I got one the other day that I would have to say is probably the nicest thing a stranger has ever said about my writing, and reminded me why I was writing fanfiction to begin with. Mostly, because it was a way to work on writing and have a sort of built in “fan-base,” even though they were J.K. Rowling’s fans and not mine. I am just going to put the review right below…

THANK YOU *SOOOOOOO* MUCH for writing these fabrics. Your “No Longer An Enemy”
is one of the best things I’ve ever read. You should print it out, bound it
together as a book, an get it published. You could really make some money! I
know there are a LOT of Dramione shoppers out in the world who would eat it
up! Also it would be so cool to be able to keep the book on my nightstand. And
you already have a name for it, too! I just wanted to let you know that I
absolutely LOVE this fanfic. Because of school and work, it took me about a
week to read it. When I finished, I just about cried. “What am I gonna do with
my life NOW?!?!” So, thank you for making that fanfic so good 🙂 You’re
awesome and NEVER doubt your writing abilities – they are ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!
I could just hug you to death because of how amazing your stories are! Thank
you 🙂 *BIGGEST HUG EVER!!!!*

Granted, I don’t actually want to be hugged to death, but I figured that wasn’t literal.

When I read over this story again, a number of years ago, after completing it, I couldn’t help noticing all the mistakes that I’d made, and things I would have done differently. I used to just write one chapter at a time, posted with proofreading but not really revising the story as I went along, so that’s understandable. However, I’ve been instructed to “NEVER doubt my writing abilities,” so I guess I have to believe in myself now.

This is Reason #2: because you will write something that will give someone else pleasure because it’s enjoyable to read, or release because it reaches their emotions, or inspiration because it reminds them of their love of art and creation or something like that. Reactions like this to something you made are just so heartening, it’s hard not to have your spirits lift when you see them. And although legions of fans like musicians or books or movies that don’t really have much artistic merit, but a single glowing review from an individual is worth a lot more than a horde of screaming dummies. (No offense to the screaming dummies.)

Merry Christmas!