If you’re a writer, you need to remember the person for whom you’re writing.
There are people for whom I’m tempted to write. They live in the corners and creep around the edges, but when I give in and write for these people, the shadows they cast cover what’s essential about me.
I need to constantly remember that I’m not writing for the following people:
1. The person with whom I’m conflicted. It’s so easy to sit down in front of my keyboard and create a scenario where I justify myself and condemn them. But this never leads to a more expansive me. It feels sweet for a moment, because I like to feel vindicated, but in the end it’s cowardly and it will hinder my voice from telling the truth and being free.
2. The person that’s going to raise the objection. No matter what you write, someone is going to misunderstand it, misapply it, take it out of context, or use your writing as a platform to be heard themselves. The temptation is to say your thing, then provide fourteen disclaimers as a way to prevent the objections. Or, to spend lots of time commenting on comments in order to explain yourself. Don’t do this. Say your thing. If you want to engage with the objections, awesome. If you want to ignore them, awesome. The more you find your voice, the less disclaimers you will make and the less time you will spend on the objections.
3. The Expert. When I was starting my blog, I read a very helpful book that included lots of practical tips about how to write, how to increase traffic, and how to “drive people to your site.” I loved the book, because it helped me get started. But a few weeks into my blog, I realized that I was a very different kind of writer than this person was, and following some of his advice was hurting my writing. So I stopped writing for him.
4. Your Hero. This is one of the hardest. If you’re a writer, there is a writer who lives just down the street from God, in your opinion. You idolize her, you have read everything that she has written, and if she ever retweeted you or commented on your blog, you would do very embarrassing things, publicly. But you are not her; You are you, and so you need to stop writing for her.
5. The Ideological View that’s Currently Hip or Trending. This may be a difficult one to explain. But there is a kind of writer who is just trying to find the busiest freeway on which to travel so that he can be a part of the conversation. The cursor blinks, there’s nothing to say, but that topic is hot, so he tries hard to merge into the flow of traffic. I get the lure of this one, big time. But I sense when I’m doing this. No tears come when I write this way. My very favorite post, the one that I’m the most proud of, had nothing to do with anything trending, and remains one of my least shared. And I felt disappointed about that! But I wrote it for me, and I’m proud of it, and it is my favorite piece.
If you’re a writer, who are you writing for?
Here are the things that help me to remember who I’m writing for:
1. Reading writers who tell their truth in ways that make me want to tell mine. (For me, that’s Anne Lamott, Pat Conroy, Richard Rohr, Brene Brown, and more recently, Shauna Niequist and Glennon Doyle Melton.) Seriously, if you are a writer and you go another week without reading Glennon Doyle Melton, we’re going to have words.
2. Believing my voice matters. This may sound trite, but there is a constant, shaming ghost voice that is telling me that no one cares what I have to say and that I don’t really know what I’m talking about. When I am tempted to hide behind this fear, it’s time for war. My voice matters and it needs to be out there.
3. Noticing what I find delightful or painful. For me, the best stuff comes from these two places. And so I notice them, and then let them simmer and brew. I use Evernote to quickly capture an idea for later. Then when I sit down to write, I’ll review evernote and see what rises to the top for me. Then I write.
If you’re a writer, who are the people for whom you’re tempted to write, and what helps you write from a better place?