Writing for the love of it or writing to be loved. Which is it?
Writers seem to have this persona of being these isolated islands unto themselves, hiding away in their thoughts and not really caring what the world thinks about them. After all, it’s the art that they create with words that’s important, isn’t it?
Well, the “island” image of writers certainly is true in one respect or another. Writers tend to be a rare breed that create impulses out of isolation, and dialogue and stories out of imagination. I try to tuck myself away for a while everyday to get lost in my thoughts and ideas.
But no writer is an island. No writer is immune to public perception. No writer doesn’t care what people think and if they say as much then they aren’t being totally truthful.
Writers are sensitive beasts, caring greatly about what others think, but oftentimes pretending to be immune from criticism. Perhaps it’s a survival mechanism because writers really expose themselves in vulnerable ways.
(Readers often assume that what someone has written has flown out of their own personal thoughts, beliefs, or experiences. Sometimes it may, but it is not a safe assumption for readers to read into what writers have written. It could be completely from the imagination. But I’ll save this for another post.)
So what is it exactly that validates a writer? Is it the offer of that big book deal with a traditional publisher? Is it that glowing review from a book reviewer? Is it the simple praise from a reader who says they were moved by one’s writing?
Does writer validation have to come from outside of oneself? Can a writer validate his or her own writing? I remember when I held my first published book in my hand. It was self-published, and not reviewed by anyone outside of my own world. But I didn’t care at that point. I felt like I had accomplished something; something I had wanted to do for a long time; I did it and that seemed like validation enough at the time. But as my writing has progressed, self-gratification isn’t enough. There must be more to writing than that.
When I sit down to write everyday, I really don’t think about what others will say. I don’t wallow in the praise that I hope will one day be bestowed upon me. There could be nothing further from my mind. In those writing moments, it’s all about the story, the characters, the underlying themes. It’s about linking concepts and extracting ideas. Those are the exciting issues I think about as I write.
But once finished, and I turn it over to the readers or I send it to the bloggers or I query another agent, I want people to like it because, honestly, if I spend hundreds of hours on my own which ultimately has no impact on the readers who dare to pick up my writing, then what exactly am I accomplishing? Am I merely playing in my own fantasy world? What would the point of that be? Why not just play a video game? It would be less stressful on my mind!
But I do think there is something more.
Art. Music. Literature. They are meant to impact others. They are meant to bring about change, big or small, in clear or subtle ways. This, I believe, is where writers find their validation. How does one’s writing make people think? How does it move them? How do they identify with it? How do they lose themselves in the characters and settings?
This is what I strive for, and I won’t give up until I achieve it. Not for the glory or the praise, but to validate the time I spend alone writing. If it impacts one person, then it’s worth it.