This newsletter was on my To Do list, right above "pitch" and below "second draft", so naturally I'm writing the piece that takes less time to cross it off with a satisfying snicker-snack.
Much of what I'm working on, both contracted and on spec, I'm unable to talk about with you. Sometimes, I struggle to come up with topics that are meaningful to you, both as writers and readers, unless I have something to announce.
Starting with this newsletter, I like to change that by focusing on a specific aspect of the writing life. I've had the chance, during the pandemic, to navel-gaze off the page and identify both my accomplishments, the bits I'm proud of, and my mistakes. Erm, there's a lot of the latter, I'm afraid, but the phrase "personal growth opportunities" comes to mind. Sadly, if my "personal growth opportunities" could be depicted by a plant? Well, I'm a dandelion. A sunny, sunny, proliferate dandelion.
I want to talk to you about one of those mistakes today. You see, I'd always known how to answer the question "Why I write", because I am a writer. For the purposes of telling a story in one form or another, I enjoy and examine human nature through the lens of my identity, experiences, and research--even when that story or setting is proprietary. Sometimes, my work is contracted. Sometimes not. Sometimes, the demands of capitalism get in the way. Sometimes, I revel in the joy of writing without any baggage or expectations.
Except, saying to myself: "I write, because I am a writer!" sounds like something Monty Python might joke. It skirts around a blistering truth: There are a lot of unknowns in the entertainment industry, and while we can, as writers, take actions to help ourselves--a successful outcome, according to whatever benchmarks you deem appropriate, is not guaranteed.
From my vantage point, those outcomes are even less predictable now.
"What" I write is a marketing conversation. I recently wrote about this decision for an upcoming essay. The harder question I forced myself to ask was: "Who (or what) do I write for?" My family? My audience? A future audience? Money? Acclaim? Legacy? What?
I struggled to answer that for weeks, because I kept trying to pin my career on someone or something else. I had to excavate all of those external factors and remove layers of crud to find out who or what was at the bottom.
Quelle surprise: It was me all along. The answer to "Who do I write for?" is "Myself."
That might not seem like much of an ah-hah moment for you, but for me? Once I realized that I was writing for me, it helped me let go of everything I've experienced up to this point--the great, the awful, the poignant, and the utterly forgettable--to start fresh.
How about you? Have you asked yourself why you write and who/what you're writing for? How has this changed your writing practice?