A writer must write—and keep writing—for the right reasons.
That, dear reader, is the hardest lesson I’ve learned about writing.
When a story of mine was rejected not long ago, I was surprised at how upset I felt. What was wrong with it? How could the reviewer not recognize how much time, planning and effort I had poured into my work? Seriously, what was the problem?
After asking these questions, I asked two that mattered.
Why did I submit this story in the first place? Was it to benefit those who read it, or was it merely to impress an audience?
At this point in my deliberations, I removed my glasses, set them down carefully and gave my face a good smack with the palm of my hand.
There is a trap that lurks in the path of every writer, and I had fallen into it for the hundredth time.
My purpose as a writer isn’t to impress my readers, nor is it to puff up my sense of self-importance.
My purpose as a writer is to benefit my readers, and to enjoy writing.
Writing is fun. There’s nothing wrong with that! As any writer can testify, writing can be exhilarating, satisfying, cathartic or simply enjoyable.
Much more importantly, writing has incredible potential for good. Reflections and stories can amuse, teach, comfort, correct or inspire. Writers have the power to make their readers think, smile, laugh, learn or cry.
I sometimes forget these purposes, and write as a way of saying, “Look at me! Look at what I’ve done! Isn’t it great? Seriously, check it out—and while you’re at it, feel free to bask in my majesty.”
That’s not good. In fact, that’s deuced awful. It’s selfish and foolish and vain. It’s a trap!
Writing merely to impress an audience isn’t good, but it has one benefit—incentive for the writer. A desire for praise and popularity is a strong motivator! It’s easy to write for the wrong reasons, and dashed hard to write for the right ones.
Whatever your purpose as a writer, don’t lose sight of it. Remember why you write, and never forget two important facts.
It is not about you.
It is about everyone else.
Yes, these lessons have become kind of a motif on this blog. They’re important ones, honestly.