Why You Should, First and Foremost, Write For Yourself
Like most things in life that last the affair that a writer has with writing starts innocently enough.
It could be the lilt of a classical poem, or a line from a book that you read and knew you would read a dozen times before you your life was through. It could be a turn of phrase that describes a situation so perfectly that it gives you goosebumps.
If you are anywhere near my age, it could have been a song on the radio. One that drew you away from tapping your foot to the melody and into the words, maybe even for the first time.
Once upon a time you dressed so fine
Threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn't you?
People call say 'beware doll, you're bound to fall'
You thought they were all kiddin’ you
You used to laugh about
Everybody that was hangin' out
Now you don't talk so loud
Now you don't seem so proud
About having to be scrounging your next meal
How does it feel, how does it feel?
To be without a home
Like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone
That pretty much did it for me. Because the first time I heard this song on a winter day in 1965, I had a definite, albeit vague, idea of how my life would go from there on out.
Nothing was carved in stone, but as time went by my interest in most of the stuff I was interested in took a back seat to learning to write. This also included formal education which I pretty much bluffed my way through until my second year history professor at Glendon College told me to quit and go find a job where I could become a professional writer.
“I promise you,” he said…”it will beat the hell out of anything else you can do with a liberal arts degree”.
And so it was.
The trip from there to here has been on two roads.
The first road was the compulsive one that allowed me to have a ‘career’ in writing, and have fun doing it, which was in the advertising and marketing business.
Working in the agency business in the 70s and 80s was really more like getting up every day and going to a party. Everybody was there to have a good time and do good work. Everybody was fiercely competitive but not against other people so much as they were against the market, and creating ideas that would actually move consumers and businesses enough to get off their asses and buy stuff.
The second road was the obsessive one. What I did at night and on the weekends. This was the quiet road that I traveled alone. And this is the road where I taught myself, mostly through trial and error of a lot of things that didn’t quite work, how to make things that did.
Blank verse poems that later turned into lyrics. Character sketches and skeleton ideas that later turned into stories and screenplays. Points of view that flushed themselves into essays. All for an audience of one, for the most part, because my wife, who had her own life, tired very quickly of trying to up with all my output.
So most of the writing a I did back then was for myself. But I didn’t care. It’s not that I was shy or protective about it. It was simply that I did not really know where it was all going.
And that’s some advice. If you are a writer, your most important audience is yourself, because in reality, there is no guarantee of success beyond that. So write to please yourself.
Back when I started writing, the number of channels were very limited.The publishing world was an arduous climb over an extremely high wall, and you were not even allowed to try and climb that wall without an agent.
I had a writer friend back then, Rick Ridding, who wrote a very good novel about a traveling executioner. It was written in the classic American style of a Sinclair Lewis or Harper Lee. IMHO it really was a brilliant book right out of the gate.
What followed in his life was three years of virtual slave labour, rewrites, submissions, more
re-writes, more submissions, I think maybe even a bit of a nervous breakdown, and at the end of it all the net result was zero.
In today’s world, the ballgame is completely different. There are many more outlets for writers to get exposure and move up the food chain. Especially in the online world.
Of course none of this means a ticket to ride to the any of the literary awards shows, or a publishing contract for any tuype or writing. That’s still a bit of rarified air.
What it means in the practical sense is is the you have a much better opportunity to build an audience now than you ever had before.
So it’s a good thing to be writing in this day and age.
But for all the good stuff there’s always going to be the converse.
The converse is that, with all this ready accessibility, everybody and their uncle, it seems, is now a writer. And what all of this hyperactivity has created is a massive glut of content virtually everywhere. And most of it crap.
This glut, by the very nature of its magnitude, is making it extremely hard for those looking for good stuff to read to actually find it.
This situation is exacerbated by a digital marketing industry that encourages the aforementioned everybody and their uncle to buy into the notion that content is king, and flatters them into believing all you have to do is keep at it and your the world will be your oyster.
Now this is something that any dedicated amateur or professional writer does not believe for a minute. In fact, it’s one of the things that causes them the most frustration.
But sadly, the glut of bad writing competing for attention with a relatively small share of good writing is a fact of life that writers have to deal with.
The best you can do is to make sure you are concentrating on building your following among the people who pick you out of the pile. This is done as simply as putting a follow request at the end of everything you post. And of course, keeping your standards high in terms of ideas and execution.
The online world is a vast wasteland of propaganda, poor writing, weird thinking and scams, to name a few things.
But people, in general, have pretty good built-in bullshit detectors. And despite the difficulties they may have in finding good writers to follow, they will do the work of separating the wheat from the chaff, so to speak.
What you have to do is make sure you are the very best wheat you can be. Managing that is not a simple task and it is, to spout a really overused cliche, very much a marathon not a sprint, to But it is doable if you are a writer. And there is loyalty out there to be had.
The main criteria that most people seem to use when it comes to who they follow is 'authenticity'. And that authenticity comes from a simple commitment on the part of the writer to write for him or herself.
Other posts along these same lines include
op/ed bloggers at beBee.com, where his is also a brand ambassador. You can follow Jim on beBee by simply clicking on this link. https://www.bebee.com/bee/jim-murray
All content and graphics copyright 2018, Jim Murray, Onwords & Upword Inc