Ever heard the song “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and The Waves? I know this is going to sound beyond cheesy but that’s exactly how I feel during some of my writing sessions. When I write for myself and follow my heart, not an audience or reader’s demands, it feels like the sun shining on me after a long winter of darkness away from my soul’s most beloved creations.
It’s a feeling you deserve to have too.
In this post, I talk about why writers should focus on self-expression versus appeasing an audience or their reader’s demands. It’s a pretty important thing to think about during your journey as a writer and can define a huge part of it so stick around till the end!
Ask yourself why you write and where the passion comes from.
Are you writing to please an audience or your reader’s demands? Or are you writing for yourself and sticking to what matters the most — self-expression?
I believe that all writers must discover their own personal reason why they write. The honest answer is not one which will be easily expressed or understood. It is a deeply intimate answer that only you can find on your own journey as an artist.
At some point, every writer will ask themselves the difficult question: Are you writing for an audience? Think about what you personally want to express, versus what is expected of you by an audience or reader demands.
If the only reason why you write your story or novel is that it will please a growing demographic and you know that this content will sell, that makes you a business person. Not a writer. If you are just trying to follow a specific formula or idea that will please any audience, versus writing from the heart and following your own voice then how can you expect anyone to believe in your artistic integrity as a writer?
When I write, I am not thinking about what my readers may think of it. In fact, when someone tells me they read one of my books or blog posts, I always ask them what they think about it in their own words. If you are writing for an audience or trying to please someone, then your work will reflect that in the end product.
I believe that for an artist whose canvas is the blank page in front of them, writing is all about self-expression. If you have an inborn passion or gift for storytelling, then it becomes even more important to stick with your own voice and heart versus what an audience may want from the story itself.
Focusing on self-expression helps you find your voice
When you focus on self-expression, it helps you find your voice as a writer and stick with what matters: the character’s journey.
When writing for an audience or reader demand, we may end up betraying our characters’ voices because we are bending them to fit some sort of mold (e.g., the current trends or what we think the fanbase wants).
It can be tempting to bend our stories and characters for an audience because it feels like validation of your work as a writer. But this motivation comes at a cost: you will end up writing something that may feel false inside — the voice doesn’t feel genuine from within, and the characters feel like cardboard cutouts.
I don’t know about you, but if a character is not genuine from within for me as the writer (even if it’s my own story), then it’s very hard to make them believable and relatable for others.
As writers, we need to focus on self-expression because this path will help us find our writing voices and souls. Writing for others will always feel like a compromise, even if you are successful in making your audience happy (and I’m not talking purely about commercial success).
Achieving this level of “success” feels empty because the voice doesn’t come from within, it’s an outside demand we have satisfied — but it’s not the voice from our heart.
You are unique and so is your writing
You have a unique perspective that needs to be shared with the world and only you can emulate that. You shouldn’t let your writing be defined entirely by the status quo or what people want. In order for your writing to be best, it must remain true.
Writing for ourselves and our characters will always be more meaningful than writing for an audience, because we have a personal investment in it. When you write what you love to read or tell a story that is true to your soul as a writer, then even if no one reads it — at least there was a moment in time where you felt so happy and fulfilled as a writer.
Writing for self-expression is often the most rewarding type of writing because it brings us closer to our truest selves as writers.
You, my dear writer, are a snowflake. No one else can write you so don’t sell out on your uniqueness.
Writing should be about love, not business
Don’t write for the wrong reasons.
While I completely understand the publishing industry is a business and that we all need to pay our bills (be it from a full-time career writing or otherwise) but I firmly believe that when you focus on making money as your primary motivation for creative writing — it will never be fulfilling enough. If you only write because of monetary gain or what an audience wants, then your heart won’t align with your writing.
Writing for yourself requires introspection and honesty with yourself about the motivation behind why you write. Many writers are afraid to ask themselves this question because it’s hard, but if you don’t know the answer — then how will you ever move forward in life as a writer?
I’m not saying all of us should be writing for self-expression all the time because sometimes writing to make money or satisfy an audience can be the right path to take (think: fun fan fiction or a ‘filler’ novella in your writing adventures to cover the rent.)
However, if you are only doing it out of obligation rather than love – then this will show in your work and can end up being detrimental to both yourself as a writer and others who read your writing because they won’t feel that passionate about what you wrote either.
Write about what matters to you
Write about what you know and believe, not for others.
You should never write something that doesn’t feel right to you or go against your moral compass. We all have a responsibility as writers to be true and honest with ourselves first before we put anything out into the world for others to read and judge.
When you have a lack of passion for what you’re writing, there may be something deeper that needs to be explored in your life or within yourself as a writer. Once you unearth that, you can write again with inspiration and love.
Writing is a very personal and emotional thing, so it’s important to have this level of introspection when you’re writing. When going through the process of creating your work (whether it be writing or art), make sure that your heart aligns with what you are doing — otherwise, there will always be something missing from your story.
Write for you, the world comes after
I want to leave you with these words: I implore all of us as writers and readers, please always go back to the heart. Let’s be true and honest about why we write and what motivates us – then we can create something that is truly special for everyone!
Writing is a journey that takes you to the doorstep of your soul – so please always remember why you started in the first place when going through it! It’s about self-expression and love for what you’re doing. If you forget this, then your writing will suffer and you won’t feel fulfilled as an artist.
That writer’s void can come from not following our passion. So always go back and ask yourself why you wanted to create something in the first place before everything else!
And with that comes fulfillment.
greetings, to the Finest Artist I’ve ever known
I’m not a writer but i sure do write. not for people or publication but for myself. It’s actually a personal dairy and I just write whatever is in me, be it mind, heart or soul… it captures, what i feel in that moment, be it good or bad, happy or sad and even if i forget it (which i always tend to) it’s still there somewhere in my dairy and it helps me remember that moment…
since I am no professional writer, I don’t know what it is like to write for the audience and nor am I willing to step towards that but I sure do know what writing for self is like and i couldn’t agree with you more…
Yes, writing for self means being true to YOUR INNER VOICE, to your thoughts, o your feelings and most importantly to yourself… because if i knew someone would someday or somehow read my dairy, I guess I would not write what I truly feel and want and if I don’t… well, I’d rather not write…
I guess what I’m trynna say is, I couldn’t agree with you more…
With Love & Respect
– Your Admirer
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