Writing for yourself – a personal voyage
Not every word you write has to be for publication or for public consumption. You can write personal journals, diaries, blogs and even fiction/non-fiction, which was never intended to be written for anyone but you. I’ve done it, myself. Sometimes, the best way to work through things is just to put the thoughts into words so you can see them and address them in your own way. They were never meant to serve any purpose but allowing you to release something that was pent up inside of you. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, either. If it helps you work through things, then so much the better. Writing is deeply personal, as well as a way to share thoughts. Sometimes, those thoughts are only for yourself.
Writing is as unique as we are, allowing us to say things we might never have said out loud, or to articulate thoughts that otherwise might not have found substance. Ask a dozen writers and you’ll get a dozen different theories about how the process works. All I can tell you is what works for me, and that might not work for you or for anyone else. What I can tell you with absolute certainty is that no one can tell you how your writing should be except you.
Harlan Ellison has his “ten rules of writing” and there are others out there as well. So many authors, some of them quite famous, who have a definitive guide to how writing should be done. I might not have had the level of success of Ellison, but that doesn’t mean I have to listen to him. Say what you will about the advice, I will never deny the talent of the man. He’s an incredible writer. However, Ellison isn’t me and I’m not Harlan Ellison. I couldn’t be him, if I tried. The thing is, I’m not trying to be. I’d fail, if it did. I am only trying to be me. Nothing more, nothing less. I will write how I write and I make no apologies for that.
While there are certain rules of language that we should all follow. For example grammar and syntax. Those are the most basic building blocks of the language. However, having said that, your goal is not to be an English professor. It’s to write. If your writing is understandable and you know how to use spellcheck and an editor, then your writing is as valid as anyone else’s. All writing should stand on the merit of the story and nothing more. Everything else is just someone’s agenda. Tales should be judged by the content of the tale, not by the teller. It’s the same with songs. There are plenty of songs that I thoroughly enjoy despite the fact that I don’t care much for the artist. I can enjoy the song without being a fan of the singer. It works the same with writing.
People are different. We’re all unique. We all have our own opinions, dreams, goals and personalities. I can honestly say that on a personal level, I’m not exactly everyone’s cup of tea. I can be brash and a bit headstrong, but I get the job done. People either like me or not and I don’t go out of my way to influence it either way. I am who I am. My writing comes from who I am, equal parts experience and education. Experience in the real world and with all the hundreds of books that I’ve read in my lifetime. Education that comes from both a classroom and from my life. If you’re not continually learning something, then you’re not growing. I am who I am. I make no pretenses or excuses. As the old saying goes, what you see is what you get. I suppose that’s why my characters tend to have either military or law enforcement backgrounds. That’s what I understand and where my experiences come from. I cover the ground I stand on.
I tell you all of this as an example. Your writing is who you are. The sum of your experiences and personality. Don’t let anyone tell you who you should be nor should you let them tell you what your writing should be. Find the path that fits you and stay on it. You can’t be Harlan Ellison, so don’t try. So, if you can’t be Harlan Ellison, then why should his “ten rules of writing” be the guiding force behind your writing? If you read anything in those rules that you want to apply to your writing, then go for it. However, don’t let those rules dictate everything you do. Just as you can’t be Harlan Ellison, he can’t be you. Only you can do that. Be true to yourself and your creative style.
We can all keep working to improve our writing through continuous practice and study. We should always strive to be better than we were yesterday. That doesn’t mean that you still can’t be yourself. What that means is you try to be a better version of you, each day. It’s not fair to measure your writing or your success on anyone else’s. You are unique and your journey will be as unique as you are. No two authors have ever achieved anything in exactly the same fashion. Keep writing and keep showing your craft to your readers. After all, it’s the readers that we write for. Even if the intended reader is just yourself. You write for the intended audience.
Now, I have had my share of good and bad reviews. I evaluate each review for what it is. I know full-well that I can’t make everyone happy. Some people will never be happy. What I ask myself is if there is any truth to the review or was it just someone saying that they didn’t like/approve of something. If they point out a legitimate problem, I can fix that. If it’s something they just didn’t like, then I’m sorry that you didn’t like it…but I’m not changing it. When you start editing/changing your writing to fit the approval of small groups or individuals, you lose the integrity of your writing. You sacrifice your voice. You no longer write what makes you happy. That’s a tragedy, because too many people are doing just that today. Be true to yourself and your writing. The readers who enjoy your writing will thank you for it. When you give up your own voice, you risk losing the readers who did enjoy your writing. Stick to your vision and your audience will appreciate it.
So, remember that your writing is supposed to be unique, just like you. It’s part of you and only you can decide the path it takes. No one’s rules for writing should influence you more than as a learning exercise. You read the “rules” and decide what works for you and what doesn’t. We all share our writing with our audiences and those readers want unique stories. They will love you for you, not for who you’re trying to be. Tell your stories and always work to be a better you than you were yesterday. Don’t try to be me or Harlan Ellison or anyone else. By you, but be the best you that you can be. Tell your stories the way you want to tell them. Don’t be influenced by anyone who claims they know the “best way” to do anything. Find your path and walk it with pride.
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