1. JeffD
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    JeffD Member

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    Writing for yourself?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by JeffD, May 4, 2011.

    I know several people love to use the cliche quote "Write for yourself, then everyone will love it and if they don't.... whatever.", so maybe that's more of a paraphrase than a quote.

    My main question is why? I understand that it's easier to find ideas in writing for yourself, but logically it seems that if you are writing for yourself the work being written will eventually turn to message literature. A Christian would write stories about accepting Jesus Christ as the savior of all mankind. A homosexual would write stories about how brave it is to be different and true to their natural self. An oppressed minority would write about staying strong against adversity from ignorance.

    Writing for an audience on the other hand would be entirely different, wouldn't it? A theme will still be visible but the message is more hidden. Sure that Christian could still write about a person accepting Jesus Christ, but then show what really happens in the persecution and mocking from the intelligentsia and others.

    Basically, if I wanted to write for myself I would write a journal. Maybe I am just misunderstanding when people are saying "Write for yourself". Opinions, questions, concerns??
     
  2. skeloboy_97
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    skeloboy_97 Senior Member

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    Yeah, I agree with the last line, why not just write a journal? :confused:
     
  3. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    The “write for yourself” mantra is more to stop newbie writers from questioning themselves and their story too much, in my opinion at least. I think you could say the first draft of a novel is for yourself, but when you finish that and decide you want to try to publish it, that's when you need to think about an audience. Personally, I only write for myself and don't have any big desires about getting published, even though I claim I do because it feels insane to work so hard on something and then not do anything with it.
     
  4. JeffD
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    JeffD Member

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    That's funny that you see it as a line to use to have a new writer just shut up and keep writing. Your opinion may be true haha.

    So you write for the love of writing? That's admirable in a way, and yes it is also insane to not want to take your works further. Could it be a fear of rejection by publishers and the reading community that stops you? I don't mean to take it to such a personal level, but hey you brought it up ;) No need to answer that if you don't want to.
     
  5. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it's mostly because getting published sounds like so much hard work, and the whole business seems kind unstable and cut-throat somehow. It's like it's not worth it. And the more I read about it, the less I want to. At most, I'd probably self-publish and sell it as a cheap e-book. Also, if I write for myself, I don't have to worry about others or my damn audience, you know. I can just write what I want to read and screw everyone else.
     
  6. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    "Write for yourself" to me does not mean you write directly what has happened in your life. I am writing a science fiction book, and I say I'm writing it "for myself", however I have never met an alien, I don't own a spaceship, and I certainly don't live on the moon. I'm writing a story that compels me, a story I would have loved to read when I was in fifth grade (it's a MG sci-fi).

    "Write for yourself" is that you write a story where you fall in love with the characters and become immersed in the plot. You keep writing because you enjoy the process. It has little to do on reflecting on your own life, though your experiences will shape things, but your experiences shape everything you write. The opposite is when you try to write because you want to get published, or because you want to make money. People who do this are trying to find something that sells, something they think a lot of people will like, even if it doesn't appeal to them in the slightest.

    If you watch Family Guy, Brian has written two books. The first, Faster Than The Speed of Love, he "wrote for himself", although he's a terrible writer and no one wanted it. The second, he tried to write a book that only stupid people would buy, Wish It, Want It, Do It, and it turns out to be a wild success. The irony here is that true life is the opposite. If you write a story because you enjoy writing the story, chances are people will enjoy reading it, too.
     
  7. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    As funkybassmannick and Spklvr have said it doesn't mean you write about your life. Also, I have to point out that I know people who are Christians who write about murder and death and people who are "oppressed" who write Scifi, lol. The generalities are... interesting.

    I write for me, as they said, because it's what's in my head. It's not something that I am trying to conform to some perfect bestseller formula. It's just there and I need to write it. It means that I don't try to copy some bestselling writing book to perfection, that I don't try to emulate a current bestseller perfectly because hey, it worked for them, right? Writing like that is never really a good idea. So basically my view of write for yourself is this :

    Write whatever story comes to you to the best of your ability. Don't look to everyone for affirmation or direction on your plot, character names, what town they're in, what they look like, and what they had for dinner in chapter three. Just write the damned thing.
     
  8. JeffD
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    JeffD Member

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    Yes, yes, thank you for clarifying this "write for yourself" chant I see all over the forums. For a while there I was thinking that most of the posters here were encouraging therapeutic fiction writing.

    I really am enlightened on the whole mantra and support it fully now that it has been explained. Although I still have to throw in a little bit of my own style and pickyness, because I want to leave out things that I like but would turn some readers off that aren't even important to the plot. There must be a balance between being a politician writer, writing to not offend others, and writing for yourself it seems.

    These new e-readers are amazing in that the average writer can self publish their own works now. That is truly incredible.
     
  9. wicked_poppies
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    wicked_poppies Member

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    I see what you’re saying, and I agree with some of your points…. However, I know that I myself could never write something I hated just for money. Not on principal, (because if that where the case I would do it in a heartbeat) but because without the drive in myself to finish it, and do it right, I couldn’t do it. If someone said to me “I’ll give you a million dollars to write a book about the life and adventures of a shrimp in the sea”, I wouldn’t be able to do it, because I have no interest in that topic whatsoever. I could try, but without inspiration and interest in the subject, and just a driving force within myself, I couldn’t do it. So I think that you always have to be writing for yourself even when you’re trying to make something that will appeal to others.
     
  10. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    In retail, when buying stock, you need to buy what your customer likes not what you like - believe me I learned the hard way.

    Therefore I would say - look at the market you are aiming for, what can you do to make your writing appeal to that readership.
     
  11. Sundae
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    Sundae Contributing Member

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    Writing for yourself is one of those subjective statements that has a different meaning for everyone.

    I use this a lot, but it is more of a self gauging statement than one that's meant to be therapeutic. For me, it means that I shouldn't waver from what I want to do in fear that someone won't like it, in fear that the subjects I touch are controversial, in fear that it won't be this great bit hit that I want it to be or I shouldn't abandon my ideas or experiences to cater and mold my writing to fit someone else's desires because let's face it, it's my story to tell and I have a set conflict and resolution. In the end when I am done with my story, I should be completely and wholeheartedly happy and proud of it. << That is what writing for myself means, I should be happy with it.

    There is nothing wrong with writing for an audience but in a way its a trap too because suddenly, you're catering to everyone's whims and desires and it's so easy to lose yourself in it. Fan fiction is a great example of this... in any fandom, you'll see how there are always those serial authors that have story after story... but you can easily tell that they're writing to get feedback and all their plots are contrived or full of sex scenes or are done in a way to get a reaction out of the audience etc. Nothing wrong with it... but at the same time, it gets boring too. You read one of their stories and it's like you've read them all and even their surprises are predictable as you can already tell what their intentions are form the get-go. Yet there are a few authors also out there that seriously have superb writing skills, who work to fully develop a plot and the characters, but they don't get much of an audience because most people want things instantly and want things a certain way.

    Writing is shaped by who you are. I have found so far that in writing, I am extremely morally and social conscious and those are the subjects I like dig deeper and meddle with. I'm not saying I have black and white morals, in fact the opposite. I like to take a situation that is completely wrong and examine all gray morals it touches that even though that situation is wrong, you still root for it. Why?

    I remember taking a literature class where were talking about books and authors that influence culture versus books and authors who cater to an influence.

    It lead to differentiating authors as mass-fiction authors that mainly write to entertain (James Patterson, Nicholas Sparks, Stephen King) versus authors who write to make a statement and usually only have one hit wonders. It's not bad, you just have to figure out what you want in the end.

    Personally, I rather have one book that is absolutely superb than thirty books that are just okay. It's a personal choice and once you figure out how you want to write... you'll notice that it makes a difference.

    I've just seen a lot of people that have lost of what they believe in by catering to an audience. It's pretty and popping, but its also missing depth where the story could be so much more than what it is. *shrugs*

    Also, it doesn't have to be a one or other sort of thing either. There is nothing wrong with writing for yourself AND also paying attention to your audience and whose hands you would like your book to eventually fall in. So many of my favorite authors write for their audience but when you read the book, you can see that the authors are very present in the book. There is a lot of self-awareness in the book that is the author's themselves. And in turn, it gives you the perfect balance.
     
  12. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Interesting topic.

    I guess my first question is, should a message be hidden? Can you not write 'for the world' and be open?

    I used to write 'for myself'. By that I mean I was too shy to share anything with anyone. It was a matter of time though.

    My first boyfriend was a musician and wanted to see some of my song lyrics. Eventually I let him read some of them, and it wasn't as difficult as I'd expected. (Especially getting some nice compliments, although he may have been biased!)

    From then on I wrote stacks of poetry and music, and had little problem showing them to people.

    Contents-wise, there's never been any compromising. I write what I like or want, regardless if it's 'for my eyes only' or not.
     
  13. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    The problem is that most novice writers don't have the skills to do this.

    Hell, even in business and scientific fields the conventional wisdom isn't to start out trying to be CEO of a fortune 500 company or pioneer research that will change the field you work in. Most often, people are encouraged and find success by starting with projects they're passionate about and are engaged in personally. Cut your teeth on projects of passion, then when you have the expertise you'll have the experience to take on bigger projects of passion or if you want at least have the skills to just sell-out.

    I've seen hundreds of bad, uninspired stories come through fiction workshops on the college level, and many of them were because the students were trying to write something the class would like, or something that would get them an A, or something the professor would like (often professors who the students want to ask for letters of recommendation) or even just something 'safe' that isn't their 'baby' because they aren't ready to face critique on something they really care about.

    And almost always, writing improves immensely when those students are encouraged to write about something they care about and are excited about. I mean, if you're bored with a story as you're writing it, how is anyone else going to be expected to like it?

    So, I get where you're coming from, but most novice, aspiring writers simply don't have the skills or means to write to a market. Many professional writers don't even have these skills, though they at least have more means.

    And this is why people recommend novice, aspiring writers focus on things they're actually interested in and passionate about, because it's not only a good motivator, but at least it's feasible, when asking most writers (even professional) to write specifically for a market honestly isn't.
     
  14. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    With writing, what really sells are: 1) captivating characters, 2) compelling story, 3) interesting setting, 4) an irresistible voice. The list goes on, but let's stop it there. If I "write for myself", I will write because I love at least the first three on this list. I love my characters, my story, and my setting (we'll get to #4 in a sec). Because I love those elements of my novel so much, I will continue to work on them until they are amazing. It doesn't matter if people are all of a sudden into stories about vampires, if I do not love my characters, story, and setting, I will just get to the end as fast as possible and these elements will be left undeveloped.

    As far as #4 goes, that's all practice, practice, practice. If you "write for yourself", you will undoubtedly keep writing until your voice is just as irresistible as other authors' voices.

    If the market is calling for vampire stories, great. Write a vampire story. But make sure you love the elements of your story before you put to much effort in it, because chances are you will leave it unfinished or unpublished.

    Note: It's tricky following trends anyway, because by the time you've written a story (if you take a year or more like sensible writers), the trend might be over.
     
  15. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi pops
    Basically I was looking at the first quote by the op.
    The op Jeff goes on to say that if he wanted to write for himself he would write a journal.

    I did not think or imagine he was referring to novice writers.

    However - in primary school we are encouraged to write about ourselves and this goes on through out our school life and for beginner writers it may be sound advice. But at some point a writer has to move on. I therefore do not see the point in repeatedly advocating 'write what you know' thereby imo keeping them in a rut.

    I believe that even beginners should, use their imagination, move out of their comfort zone, experiment and look at what they are aiming for.
     
  16. nastyjman
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    nastyjman Contributing Member

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    We can be selfish with our stories, stopping at the last word, then shelving it with the digital dust in our hard-drives. But stories are meant to be shared. As spklvr had said above, "write for yourself" when you draft, and "write for the readers" when you revise.
     
  17. Jessica_312
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    Jessica_312 Contributing Member

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    I think the quote "Write for yourself" should be changed to "Write from your experiences" (In others words, write what you know in a way that is intriguing, and that other people can relate to)

    I agree with this too!
     
  18. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    Who else in the end are you going to write for? 90% of stuff is unpublished and probably going to remain that way. But at least if you write for yourself you're going to have one person who likes it, and it won't be a chore writing it so much as a joy. And besides, if you assume that you're mostly typical then hopefully what you like others will like.

    I think your best bet is to write your stories the way you like them, then if at some stage one of them reaches the stage where you might want to publish it, that's when you alter it to suit a wider audience. That's when maybe you need an editor.

    Cheers.
     
  19. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    Interesting to see other people's opinions on this. I've never considered "writing for yourself" as "writing from your own experience" before. I see it as writing what you want to see happening. Stuff what the audience thinks and don't bother putting yourself in the reader's shoes - be the reader. Write the type of story you want to read.

    I write for myself before anyone. When I say this, I mean I write what I want to read and I don't give a damn what anyone else thinks or says about it because right from the very beginning I know I'm already going to have one satisfied reader: myself. If I want something to happen I'll make it happen. I've been surprsied to find that the type of novel I personally want to read is what others want to read too. I've had much more positive reader response from stories I've written primarily me -- and not even planned to share -- than those I've written specifically with a "reader's interest" in mind. It's a selfish way of writing but it's proven successful for me.
     
  20. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    when I heard that quote I thought it equaled "write for your own pleasure and don't bother what people would think about it", but maybe that is just me? That is what I'm trying to do, I write a story I feel passionately about and if it will never be published at least I had a great time writing it and I will treasure it forever. then of course you can still write as if you had an invisible audience. I could imagine that your quote could also mean "write the kind of book you would like to read".
     
  21. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's not just you. This is how I think of it too. =]
     
  22. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If you are REALLY writing only for yourself, why bother sharing it, or trying to improve?

    Sure, it's possible you only want to improve your writing for art's sake, and never show another soul your work, and to make sure it is all destroyed when you shuffle off this mortal coil.

    But I believe that if anyone is truly honest with oneself, he or she will admit to wanting to write well enough to compare favorably with that of published writers. It's much safer to say you are writing for yourself - no one can judge you because the yardsticks only apply to publishable works.

    It's like secretly dieting. You can't fail if you never officially declared a goal.
     
  23. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    I like this take on it. It's really a balance, you write for yourself at the same time you write for others. Writing for yourself gives you the drive to develop and ultimately "finish" your story, and writing with others' opinions in mind (agents, publishers, readers) allows you to fine tune your story so that it is enjoyable to read. Both are needed for optimum improvement; both are needed to create and share your art.
     
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  24. Evilyn
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    I initially started off as writing for myself to escape the normalities of life. Don't get me wrong I have a great life, I love my boyfriend, I don't wake up every morning thinking I hate my job and I have really great friends and family. However I always thought I would be doing something creative in a career ( I have an office job 9-5) so instead to get my "creative fix" I come home and write. I escape into my fantasy world and for that evening I am doing what I love doing.

    However I feel I have worked hard on it and I actually see potential so now I do it in the hopes to get it published, but the main part of that is not for the money but to be able to hold my book in my hands and say "I did it" and that is for myself.

    Evi
     

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