– C.S. Lewis
"Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self."
– Cyril Connolly
I like advice like the two quotes above, because creating without worry about who's going to read it makes writing fun, easy, and fresh. The moment I start considering the audience, the market, and the critics, my writing becomes difficult and in danger of sounding forced and contrived. Yet, if one doesn't consider the audience, the market, and the critic, the end result may never be published. So how does one balance the need to retain one's voice, satisfy one's muse, and follow the heart with the desire to be published?
I know of no easy answers, but I choose to write what I know, love, and believe in. Even if it's never read by anyone, I like to get my ideas and convictions on paper as they come to mind.
As many accomplished authors tell us, writers must give themselves permission to write badly. Julia Cameron, in her book The Right to Write, says "Most of us try to write too carefully....We try to sound smart. We try. Period. Writing goes much better when we don't work at it so much."
William Zinsser in On Writing Well said, "You must write for yourself and not be gnawed by worry over whether the reader is tagging along." He explains at least one problem that comes from writing with the audience in mind. "You will be impatient to find a 'style'—to embellish the plain words so that readers will recognize you as someone special. You will reach for gaudy similes and tinseled adjectives as if 'style' were something you could buy at the style store and drape onto your words in bright decorator colors.…This is the problem of writers who set out deliberately to garnish their prose. You lose whatever it is that makes you unique."
Anne Lamott tells us in her book, Bird by Bird that good writers write "shitty first drafts." She claims that "Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something—anything—down on paper."
There is plenty of time after you get it down to clean it up. Lamotte calls the first draft the "down draft" because you're getting it down. The second is the "up draft" because you are fixing it up.
My advice: Write what you enjoy, enjoy what you write, and, as Shakespeare told us, "to thine own self be true."
I just finished, another "true fiction" novel. Through my character, a ten-year-old boy, the story reflects experiences, research, and what was in my mind and heart as I wrote it. Will there be a market that will justify publication of "Kendall's Storm?" I don't know yet. I've just done the "down draft" and am working on the "up draft." I expect it to undergo many more drafts before it sees publication.