Since beginning this big bad journey I call writing, I’ve written a lot of shit about a lot of shit. I’ve written posts and articles and stories that folks ate like I wrapped them in bacon, and I’ve written things that didn’t go over quite so well. Each time a particular piece bombs, I sit back and wonder, “Should I have considered who might read this before I wrote it? Did I really want to piss people off? Would a different angle have prevented a shit storm? Do I care?”
The answers: Yes and no to all of it.
Like anyone else, I don’t like to be yelled at IN ALL CAPS. I don’t like to be called names. I don’t even like offending people. I know that’s surprising to some of you, because I seem to go out of my way to do so, but I truly don’t enjoy offending another person. It just seems to come as a package deal with honesty. I’ve learned to accept that not everyone will agree with me, and they don’t have to. On the other hand, I can’t tolerate whiners or sensitive jackasses who can’t handle someone disagreeing with him.
I’m constantly at odds with myself. I don’t want a shit storm, but I can’t write about shit and give it a sugar coating. Some writers though, oy. They go around constantly hurt, angry or offended because someone didn’t like what they wrote. or because they don’t like what another writer wrote. Did you think it’d be all sunshine and roses and people would just love you forever and ever? Did you think this industry was a big happy incestuous family where we all just oozed affection and positivity? Pfft. I don’t know what planet you grew up on, but here on Earth, folks just aren’t made that way.
On the Internet, anonymity makes people mean, stupid and dishonest. They’re out for number one and they don’t give a shit what you feel or think. This is their stage, and the comments box is their spotlight. They don’t want you stealing their thunder with your kickass writing. It’s the same for everyone. When we comment on a blog or article, we know any number of people might read that comment. I’ll be honest, I kind of like that, and I do hope they enjoy what I had to say in my 50 words of fleeting fame. If I go back and someone else makes a better comment, I’m kind of disappointed that mine wasn’t as good. I momentarily hate said commenter for their awesomeness, and I go back to my life.
But I’m not commenting to get read specifically. In fact, I usually only comment if I have something to add. Now my blog and my articles are something different. I write about what interests me. People don’t always like it, but I write anyway. It might not always bring something new to the table, but that doesn’t really concern me. I’m writing about these things because they interest or amuse me. If you all like it, then that’s a bonus.
You should never write anything online to please other people because most of the time you’re going to get it wrong. Whether you’re writing fiction, articles, blog posts or tweets and status updates, write what you truly think and feel, and write about what pleases you. People respond better to genuineness than they do to pretension. Even if you’re a genuine asshole, it’s better than being a phony piece of shit. Am I right?
But writing to please yourself is harder than you might think. I still find myself writing things I shouldn’t because I’m trying to please the masses and get that much-sought-after back-patting. I’ve taken paragraphs out of this post that were a little ass-kissy. I want someone to say, “Great post.” It really sucks when you don’t get that. *sigh*
But upon editing (believe it or not, I do edit these more than once) I ask myself a few questions and most of the post gets deleted. Fun Fact: Most of my blog posts are twice as long as what actually gets published.
So ask yourself why you’re writing whatever it is you’re writing before you click “submit” or “publish.”
In terms of articles, blogs, and fiction, my first answer is always money. Am I going see compensation in some way for this? Why? Because writing is my day job too. I write about what I love, hate and I write about things I really have no feelings on one way or the other. If it pays enough, I will write it. I have bills and hungry bellies expecting me to fill them. I do what I gotta do to get shit done. I think it’s fantastic that I get paid for “words.” How awesome is that? People pay me to do what I would do for free. Mind you, I would not be writing about the side effects of mixing cocaine and heroine or the germinating of some obscure plant I couldn’t give a shit about, but for the right amount of money, I’m your boring article girl.
So, hell yeah, I write for money. I don’t care if you or you think I’m full of it and want to shit-bomb my house because of what I write. I’ll keep writing if they keep paying.
I do write for free too, obviously. Those ten manuscripts I’m querying were a completely voluntary effort, but I expect to receive compensation at some point for them. If not for the money, I’d have had those bad boys posted everywhere for everyone to read.
So, if I’m not willing to give my work away, and you aren’t willing to give yours away, then why are you writing? Money, pleasure, satisfaction…it’s all about me. (or you) Come on. Anyone writing to publish dreams of that paycheck, however small it may be. Therefore, you write for…you. It’s a completely selfish endeavor. You’re not writing that blog about writing to help me or the newb behind me. Not really. You’re writing it to show everyone what you know and what you have to offer that’s different than the thousands of others like you. When people see that you’re knowledgeable, interesting, and trustworthy, they become curious. Perhaps they follow you for a while (online, I mean) and so you have another little minion to add to your collection who might buy your work whenever it does get published. I’m writing this post right now because I hope to spark enough interest in at least one of you to convince you to click that “Follow this blog” button on the sidebar. One more to add to my little batch of followers so that when a prospective agent comes over to the Edge, she’ll see that not only am I a rambling, moody bitch, but goddamn it, people like me too. Well, at least 114 people like me.
Sometimes you hit gold and get tons of love in the comments section. Or a brief moment of inspired genius creates 140 characters that 200 people retweet. Oooh, you’re so awesome and smart and they adore you! Yeah, well consider that someone loving you because of a few hundred words written in a flurry of “I’m so fucking bored I could shit so I’ll write a blog post” feelings is kind of like my daughter saying she loves chickens because their nuggets are so tasty. I mean, if that chicken love was true love, she wouldn’t eat their nuggets, would she? If so, what’s to stop her from tasting the other things she loves? This is why I sleep with a weapon. You never know…
Oops, totally self-indulgent tangent. Was it fun for you too? No? Oh, that’s too bad. I rather enjoyed it.
I know we all have a complex list of reasons for writing each and every piece from novel to blog comment. It’s not as simple as “I’m writing this because I want to.” I believe that you want to help people. I don’t doubt that you shared a link on Twitter because you think people should read it, and I know that you truly feel that the shithead that commented before you needs a new asshole torn for bullying the writer of a particular blog. I get it. I do the same thing. However, there is always one constant in everything we write and that’s us. We do this because we want to, need to, love to. We are motivated by our own desires and goals.
If you write for the approval of strangers, you’re going to end up a loser every time. People will see that you’re not genuine and they love to attack that. It doesn’t matter if your fake persona oozes love and joy, they’ll eat you for breakfast. The only strangers you should want to impress are publishers, editors and agents. Outside of that useful love, keep the ego in check by reminding yourself the true reason you write: To please yourself.
6 thoughts on “So You’re Writing to Please Others?”
Great post! 🙂 Seriously.I blog about writing because it's a topic that I'm preoccupied with every day; it lends itself well to blogging since I don't have to bang my head against the table to come up with a post topic. And because I'm a talkative nosy little bastard and generally can't shut up about something if I'm interested in it. I'm also processing information through writing, always have. Putting shit into words helps me see it clearer, so most of my blog posts are stuff I'm telling myself, hoping I'll learn it. It's very selfish indeed, just like you said. But I see no harm and nothing condemnable in being selfish.Selfishness is human nature, and altruism & selflessness are inherently selfish too. If you do something to please or serve others because you believe your gesture is benevolent, you're being selfish — because you're patting your own back and rolling in your complacence and self-content, and you're being a hypocrite about it. Selfishness is the law of nature, it's fucking natural self-preservation. It's only human hypocrisy and religious morals that claim "altruism" is a selfless virtue. Altruism is selfishness in its most delusional form. You help others not because you're making them happy, period, but because making them happy assures you have allies instead of enemies and guarantees your survival. I don't write for money (yet) and I don't blog because I've seen the light and want to help others out of the goodness of my soul. I write because I love to see the shit in my head put on paper in an entertaining way, and I blog because I can't earn money putting my shit on paper if I don't integrate well into the community that will help me earn that money. There's nothing shameful or degrading about that, it's natural — I'm doing my best to reach my goal, and hope enough people along the way will be thankful enough for the shit I give to give me something back. Simple. If anyone believes this is not how the world works, they're in for a big surprise. :)Sorry I spewed such a long comment. Your post pressed a button. You know I can't stand people who are gullible enough to believe they're doing shit for the good of mankind, and I can't stand people who bend any way the wind blows and actually believe they're being honest to themselves and others.
Haha! I knew your comment would be long-ish. 🙂 I agree, there's nothing wrong with being selfish, and I don't think anyone should feel ashamed that they write for selfish reasons.
Hmm. As far as fiction is concerned, yep, totally guilty. I've written a few short stories in a mindset of, "Will that magazine like this one better than the one I submitted last month?"But when it comes to blog posts, comments, whatever. Fuck it. I don't care one way or the other if people are going to accept it with open arms and make it their dogma. If they do, awesome (creepy, but awesome). If not, well, that's okay, too. Of course, the egoist in me loves those comments of encouragement. Who doesn't? But most times I don't write a 140 character quip with that in mind. They're usually just drunk ramblings anyway. If one of them turns out to be gold, then fuck yes, I'll take that credit wrapped in bacon, thank you very much.
shit and give it a sugar coating. I thought that was a Canadian bonbon