Well, it’s Wednesday – hump day to some – and I thought I’d share with you some writerly thoughts that have been brought up during the week. The other day I ended up in a Facebook ‘debate’ with someone. I know, I know, I shouldn’t bite, especially when it was obvious from the start that we were never going to come around to each others points of views, but there you go, I got sucked in!
Anyway, while I did eventually walk away from it, some of the points did get me thinking. This person is also a writer and gave a me a rather long and ranty ‘history lesson’ on the beginnings of novel publishing, when books were published without the influence of reviews, bestseller lists, and reader feedback, before authors were ‘accessible’ through things like social media. Their point was that the authors then wrote what they wanted, the book came out and readers read it. If they didn’t understand something they had to go and look it up, it wasn’t the author’s job to ensure that they could follow but the reader’s to educate themselves. This person then stated that in that great literary tradition they also wrote for themselves, and that it didn’t matter to them whether they became famous or sold a lot of copies or got good reviews etc because they didn’t need to write for anyone else. It was an art form, a craft for them, not a job.
It’s a bold statement, and while I respect their view I must admit i don’t agree. Yes, to a certain extent all writers must write for themselves. If you’re not writing what you love, what’s in your heart, and what’s true to you, then it won’t feel genuine and it certainly won’t connect with anyone, so yes, I write for myself. But, I also write for my readers. If you don’t care if anyone else ever reads your words then why put them out there, why get them published? Why not save them just for yourself, so you’ll never have to worry about them being criticised, or misunderstood? If you’re releasing your work into the world then by that very act you’re saying you want other people to read it, that your words are for more than just you.
Once you do that then readers become a ‘thing’. If you’re a published author, trying to make a living, then readers are literally the most important thing! And they’re amazing – people who were once strangers to you are now seeing into a part of your soul through your writing. Let’s face it though (and I’m a reader as well, so I see both sides), there is a lot of choice out there these days for the reader. It’s not like the ‘old days’ where a book was published and people would read it because there was probably not much else to read! Today there are millions of books available, you can one-click them online, you can get them free, you can pick them up for pennies at charity shops and boot sales. Unless you’re a huge name, you have to work your ass off just to stand out from the crowd, never mind actually get a following and people buying your stories. Readers don’t need to ‘put up’ with a book, if they don’t understand what’s happening or they don’t get an emotional investment with the characters then they’re not going to think, ‘oh, I must just not be understanding this properly, I better go look it up,’ – they’re going to stop reading and move on to the next one. It’s not the reader’s job to blame themselves for not understanding something because of a lack of knowledge, it’s the writer’s job to make sure they DO understand. Readers should be able to connect with us, I love getting input and feedback from readers, because it means they cared enough to comment or to get in touch.
As for writing being an art form and not a job? Well, even artists have bills to pay 🙂 I gave up a full-time job several years ago to focus on becoming a writer. I did that because it’s my dream, it’s what I love doing and I would hope that in a way that makes it my art form. But, I’m certainly not going to pretend that it hasn’t been tough sometimes. I’m not going to lie and say that I wouldn’t like commercial success in this field. I don’t think that makes me any less of an artist. Perhaps this person has someone else who supports them while they pursue their art form? I have no idea, but I know I don’t have that luxury; if I don’t earn enough money each month the bills don’t get paid. I’m sure most of us sadly have the same problem. There’s often a stigma with creative jobs, I see it in friends who are also painters, artists, craft-makers, musicians, videographers. People seem to think that because you work in a creative field then you should be doing it purely for the love of it. Well, we do love it, but we’d still like to get paid 🙂
So, I do truly wish this person all the best with their art form. But more than that, I want to thank my wonderful readers for picking me out of all the gazillions of choices you could have made, and even more if you came back afterwards, whether you loved it or hated it, and told me about it, because I always want to hear what you think.
Take care x