Today I found this interesting little piece tucked inside my Funds For Writers newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:
You may be excited about your work, but what about the reader? Are you preaching, recanting, or flaunting your message? Or are you offering the reader a gift he would cherish by touching his life, his logic, and his emotion?
Sounds melodramatic, but regardless of the copy, the poem, the play, the novel, the advertisement, the essay or the academic paper, if the ideas are not ones that will excite the reader, why bother? A byline isn’t worth a dime if the audience doesn’t buy in.
Write for the reader. Writing for yourself only gives you a one-person market.
What she says is true, but it might just be a little too cut and dry (though highly practical, if you’re only talking sales). I prefer the advice of my college professor, who once said about writing: “People don’t give a [insert curse word] about your problems or feelings. You have to give them something else. You have to make them care.”
Which does not exclude writing for yourself. Only, be conscious of your efforts and how what you write affects others, good or ill. As a writer, you need to live outside your body and your experiences—look at the world through all kinds of eyes, always feeling and hearing and pretending. What you learn, bring home to the page. Translate it. Make it more, make the reader care.
Dan Simmons talks about something similar in an interview about the feebleness of today’s ‘serious’ fiction.
“Narcissism, it would appear, does not slacken with the years, it only grows. Only there is a problem … The self, however grandiose, is finite; the wells do dry up.”
In other words, if you rest too much in yourself, if you don’t go and out and live with a keen eye and a particular kind of empathy toward your fellow man, you’re gonna go stale. You won’t have anything new to offer the reader. And that’s…bad.