Monday, June 30, 2014

First and Foremost: Why Are You Writing?

The topic of audience selection comes up frequently enough that most writers likely have an idea or concept about whom they believe might decide to read their book.  It's an important topic, as every writer wants to feel a connection with their readers and, hopefully, the readers feel the same way.  With that in mind, it's easy to lose sight of why you started to write in the first place.  When that happens, there's a disconnect that takes place and something gets lost between the pages.  It's not so much a question of improperly gauging your audience.  It's something deeper and far more personal.

What went through your mind the first time you put pen to paper, or set the cursor on your screen dancing as the words flowed into your fingertips?  Did you feel the kind of nervous excitement after finishing a carefully crafted plot arc that could only be likened to your very first date?  Have you ever shed tears while daydreaming or plotting the scene where one of the characters you created dies?  These questions are all about an emotional response triggered from the act of writing.  What we're talking about here, then, is really passion for the craft.  Whether your passion for writing burns like a smoldering flame or like a bonfire, it's personal and unique to every writer.  Yet, fire can be contained, directed and re-directed, just like any tool.  So, if we aren't careful, we end up molding our passion to suit the needs/wants of our readers, our publishers (for those going the small publisher or legacy route), our time commitments (read: constraints), etc. 

None of this is to say that the writer shouldn't be mindful of his or her audience.  Quite the opposite.  Like stage directors running a full company of actors, orchestra, and stage hands, writers absolutely must play to the readers/audience.  That comes down to understanding their needs versus wants: give them what they need, but tease them with what they want.  Through it all, however, you have to let them see your passion for writing.  That's why they came in the first place to see the theater that is your book.  Whether the story is a critically acclaimed success, hardly noticed among the crowd, or belittled by the curmudgeons: there are bound to be those who are intrigued by the passion and fire you've injected into your tale. 

That's what writing is for me.  It's about following the desire to create something from nothing and then turning that into a tale that I hope entertains, educates, and engages the reader.  It's impossible to write something that will please every single reader in the exact same way.  Attempting to do so waters down the experience of whatever it is I'm trying to create.  Strangely enough, I actually do believe that constructive negative feedback, serves several purposes.  One, it reinforces my point above that you can't write something that will please everyone.  Two, it likely may give me food for thought on things I hadn't considered or another viewpoint for analyzing whatever the topic may be (i.e. story arc, character development, etc.).  And three, it just stokes my fire to get me back to brainstorming, outlining, planning and writing. 

What is writing for you?  Just as important, what does it do for you?


Leanne Dyck said...

Thank you for this thought provoking article. Although I've always been a story teller your article prompted me to recall what made me pick up the pen--my junior high Language Arts teacher introduced me John Steinbeck. He gave a voice to the voiceless. And I wanted to follow his lead. There were many people in my life whose wisdom needed to be heard. I wanted to build bridges between them and the world. This goal still drives my writing.

R. Q. Garcia said...

Thanks for sharing Leanne. I have always greatly admired those whose writing/words can serve as a voice for those unable to speak up and be heard.