When you write, when you create your poems, stories or novels, who are you writing for?
As writers, most of us feel compelled to put ink to paper; it’s in our blood and acts as sustenance. It keeps our every day lives sane and bright. But as writers, we’re also slaves to ambition and dreams, and the biggest desire of all is to get published.
When it comes to content, there are two schools of thought; write what you know and write what you don’t know! As contradictory as this may sound, it’s all about sparking an idea that leads to brilliant, engaging, exciting writing.
Whatever you write, it’s generally acknowledged that you have to make sure it’s the best possible piece you can manage. Now, a piece of work might seem polished, but leave it for a while (weeks, months, maybe even years) and you’ll probably find many glaring mistakes and necessary changes.
But does everything you write have to be polished? Does every poem, story or novel have to begin with the aim of being perfect or getting published? What happened to experimentation?
As Rebecca Woodhead advised in the June 2012 edition of Writing Magazine, “stop being a constipated writer…Find your voice, and you will find readers.”
At the start of this year, I made a pact with myself to send out more submissions as well as complete a new book. This was a direct reaction to the fact that I’d spent one solid year working solely on a Middle Grade fantasy novel and had written myself into a corner. So, for sanity and creativity’s sake, I marked out a multitude of competition and submission deadlines and plunged in, full steam ahead.
Now, half way through the year, I’m re-evaluating this idea. Yes, I had some shortlisting and publishing success, but I’ve found that while my ambition has been tamed, in some ways, my creativity has suffered. I’ve found myself adopting a severe, business-like approach, which has sometimes made writing seem like work.
It’s not that I’m saying writing should easy; we all know the amount of energy, effort, determination and tears that go into a great piece of writing. But surely we write full time for the love of it? As far as I’m concerned, we should be motivated to write well and efficiently, but still have time to play.
Of course, deadlines will loom and ambition will still snap at our ankles. So what’s the answer?
Instead of aiming for a masterpiece, let yourself go. It’s OK to experiment. No – it’s good to experiment! How can we improve as writers if we don’t try new things?
I’m talking about trying to write something in a different genre, a new voice or writing in second person instead of first. If you always write fiction, try adapting an idea from personal experience or vice versa. Don’t even complete a piece; list great first lines or titles, play with metaphors and sentence structure. Just have fun and you never know, it might turn out brilliant. But don’t let this be your aim; allow yourself to write just for you.
And it seems I’m not the only one considering this route. In an interview on writing.ie, Irish literary super-agent Marianne Gunn O’Connor advises writers…
“…You have to say to yourself: why am I writing? Am I writing to get a publishing deal or am I writing because I just have to express something? I think if it’s the former, that’s a difficult place to be. But if you’re writing from a pure place, I think eventually someone will connect with your work. I always say, ‘write because you have something to say’. Remember, we all love good stories.”
When was the last time you wrote something without any publication aim in mind? Is it time to take stock and reclaim the enjoyment of writing?