I was recently asked the question: what are your writing fears? And the answer wasn’t quite what I expected. It was just something I wrote down as the first idea that came into my head, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it’s probably my biggest one.
I fear that I write too much for myself. That what I write is really just for me and won’t resonate with others.
It doesn’t sound that bad, right? And there’s the other end of this spectrum — of never writing for yourself. If you don’t write because you love it, you probably won’t write things that others will love, too. But you can write selfishly without any regard for connecting with an audience, and that is what I fear in my writing.
Here’s what I originally wrote in my comment when Jamie asked this question in a Weekend Edition post at Live to Write – Write to Live.
I think writing for yourself is important, but if that’s all it is, I think it becomes unrelatable. There’s a fine line between selling out (only writing for the masses or trends) and being self-absorbed. Striking that balance of being personal and also being engaging is so hard, and yet so essential.
It’s much easier (and often therapeutic) to write things that are comforting and that reflect your own little corner of the world. But if you stop there, I think you do yourself — and more importantly, your readers — a disservice.
Writing stories that others can relate to on a deep level means you have to dig deep and work hard. To engage with an audience, you have to move beyond yourself and into a broader perspective.
Writing what people want to read is a careful dance. You have to stay true to yourself: your values, your interests, your goals. But you also have to step outside of that and be able to view your writing as a reader. If you want your stories to be read, they have to touch on scenarios that everyone can identify with, and they have to touch that part of us that’s trained to love a good story. Stories have to straddle a fine line between being deeply personal and deeply universal.