Write What You Want

I don’t know if I shared this post before. Of course, it’s not the best way to answer to fan/hate mail, but it does say something important about art and artists.

I write for myself and I’ll say anything I damn well please.

I believe this is true. Yeah, we all write for a lot of other reasons as well, or sometimes for no reason at all. Let’s say, just for fun, because we can. Like NaNoWriMo. But I also believe that it’s important to understand that writers ( or any other kind of artists) don’t have to listen to anyone.

I write what I want, when I want, and how I want. And I’ve been doing that for a long, long time. Simply put I don’t care if you don’t like it, or if you don’t agree with what I have to say.

Of course, you could say that when you ask people to pay for your art, they somehow own you. You have to deliver a quality product. But it’s not like that. They own that work of art, no doubt about it. And they can love it or hate it, they can understand what they want from it. They can write a review, they can tell all their friend to buy it or not, but they can’t tell you what to write.

I received a couple of comments from people who said they were afraid their writing was too dark. Or something like that. Art is what it has to be, there’s no way to go around this. If it’s dark, it’s dark, if it’s sexual, it’s sexual.

That’s a nice thing to remember, especially now with NaNoWriMo.

Write what you want because that’s the only way people are going to care. If you’re afraid what they might think, if you want to please everyone, odds are that you won’t please anyone.


106 thoughts on “Write What You Want

  1. I agree! If everyone wrote what others wanted then eventually wouldn't we all wind up with the same thing? I write what I want because its for me, if others like it or don't that's ok because ultimately I'm not doing it for someone else, I'm doing it for me. Isn't that the same as living your life for you? Living life according to someone else's plans or ideas isn't really YOUR life after all. Writing what others think you should write isn't realy YOU writing. Nice post, thank you.

  2. Refreshing post, Cristian! As writers, artists…we have to do our craft from our own passion, otherwise our CRAFT becomes CRAP quickly. We want others to like and enjoy what we put out there, but doing so from a standpoint only to please others makes us slaves to our work. Never a good idea!

  3. writing helps us discover what we think, sometimes we write what we thought was true only to discover something that would have otherwise been lost. we have no choice but to write what we want, but there still may be another way to approach it. It kind of goes along with the addage what you want may not be what you need. Good post, got me thinking.

  4. Today, one of my critics attempted to give me a bath in public about the content of my photography (Art) on Twitter of all places. It shook me up for about and hour and half, I had this horrible heavy feeling in my tummy and felt bad and pale grey. Then I decided at that point that I really couldn't give a s**t whether she saw the world how I do or not. Or even appreciated my Art.

    I'm a colorful person and see the beauty of the world around me through my camera lens in vibrant color! Often.

    So I thanked her for her comment, sent her light and love and got on with my day. However I am still thinking about her, but I don't feel bad for me anymore but I do feel genuine concern for her. Goodness knows what motivates someone to reach out on Twitter and be like that to someone they don't even know?

    Your blog is timely for me tonight Cristian.


    (Yes I am a terrible smilee face person.)

  5. I think there are two kinds of writers: writers that write for an audience and writers that write for a cause. Clearly you are the latter and that's respectable. That's why I follow you in the first place. Sadly though, it's about 80% of the writers-community that writes for an audience and that's why the web and library is scattered with useless crap that sells.

    • Writing is what you want it to be. I've written for hire and I've written for myself, and both processes are similar in ways and different in others. The trick is to find that same sense of freedom one feels writing a self-inspired piece when a paycheck is then added to the process. Easier said than done. That's when a writer learns that writing is also a craft, and not only an art.

  6. Absolutely – if and when somebody reads my blog and does not like what they see – tough! I too write for myself and if I like it (and my husband and my daughters) then this is all what matters. I am not in this for a competition.

  7. Luckily or unluckily, I've never been good at being something I'm not – so even if I wanted to write pandering drivel to appease a cultural literary sugar addiction, I couldn't. Not to say it is not possible for the two to align now and then.

  8. All very true Cristian and couldn't agree more Daan. Even if it doesn't alwasy sell it is still there and you just get fed up hearing what will sell,….what is sellable when you write. We don't know till it is out there and we do know when we see it, what we like.

  9. Well said, and agreed. (I also worked at a contemporary arts organization – talk about controversy at times!) I read those letters and my first impression was to question why that mother didn't research the music first. That reminded me of Howard Stern (though I'm not a fan of his), who once said something to the tune of "If you don't like my program, don't listen to it." I took his advice and didn't listen to his show. I'm curious about your thoughts regarding memoirs, Christian. It's been a topic of late in a few blogs that I've been following. Worrying about reactions from family can prevent people from writing their memoir. What do you think about writing what you want in this case? I think I'd risk hurting a few relatives if my story meant many would benefit in some way from my story. But risk alienation from my family … I don't know. How important, then, would it be to share the story with the world? I have read that to be a good writer, you can't worry about that. Easy to say, hard to do – from what I can tell.

  10. That's an interesting thought. It made me think about whether it's possible to write for a cause, but not for an audience. I'm sure Christian has his own idea about this, but I think that we always write for an audience once we go public. I know that I write completely differently when I journal in private than when I write for my particular causes. I always think about how it would come across to the readers. I wouldn't want to alienate them in my cause, would you? Thank you for your thoughts. I found them provoking this morning.

  11. Christian, I appreciate your posts and feel encouraged by them. So many times I forget that I have the right to say what I think even if it isn't popular. The truth is, I sometimes feel hurt that my particular vision doesn't translate well to others and worry that my writing is bad. Then I think, who cares? I mean at some point we have to just enjoy the process because we can't guarantee results. I think you've hit on some interesting ideas in your blog. I even bought your book which I don't normally do. Thanks for reading my blog sometimes. It makes me feel special even though I know you probably read a lot of people's blogs. However, I don't, so I hope you feel special.

  12. YES! What awesome, honest and admirable advice! Write because it is what you love to do, the flow of words through your body unto paper(or computer) and out into the world. There will always be haters to hate and others who look at you with envy in their eyes. They don't matter. Yes sometimes we want to produce quality work for our dedicated fans, however they should be inspiration to improve what you are already doing( by testing different methods of writing and delivering the story and more investment in developing the characters and world and just the overall flow) not thee sole reason for writing. I can see how authors of a series would feel pressured to write the story , sometimes a fluff story, because it is the story the " bandwagon" audience yearns for. But, most of the time that is not how the story was supposed to be told. When an author is pressured into changing the original telling of a story it really shows within the writing. telling the original story may cause you to loose fans, but it will also cause you to gain the respect of others. Stick to your story everyone. It's the one that matters most.

  13. Here, here! I agree. Passionate writing shows when the author is bold. Weak writing tastes like a bland dish, made to satisfy any pallet. Give me well seasoned books, any day of the week.

  14. I'm prompted to a couple of thoughts by this.

    Isn't this like 'being'. So many people talk about social fear or self-doubt – how do I 'be me', as if there were a secret. There are guides – don't be mean, don't be rude etc. – but no absolute manual. In the end you have to just BE YOU and trust that some won't like you, and that this is okay – because others will like you.

    Trying to please people who don't like you means trying to be something you don't like – which is madness – and may lead to losing those who do like you for you.

    Thus writing is as living – be you, accept this will lose you readers – but that the readers you keep will really MEAN something.

    The second thought. How can we write what we want when – we write in a language we didn't invent; we write with a constant awareness that we will be read and we want to be understood, so always shape our writing to some extent? Writing is a sort of social contract which requires writing for. (of course writing for is different to toadying to)

  15. This is absolutely true! I remind myself of this often since I am around artists and writers so much. I may not a) understand their work or b) their work may not be to my aesthetic tastes, but I respect that it is their work and that they have the right to express themselves however they like. This also goes for them interpreting my own work. I don't write to make anyone else happy. I write for me. I write about the topics that catch my interest and because it makes gives me a creative outlet.

  16. Tres vrai. Art, what I believe is real art, comes from revealing ourselves; if we're too caught up in trying to please others, is our work really a reflection of ourselves? That said, one has to acknowledge the commercial side (if people are paying for our work), but presumably they are paying for it BECAUSE it is unique to its creator.

  17. Yes, of course, write what you want. But also, if you have someone in mind as an audience, you'll remember to tell the story. That seems to cover both bases. Sometimes writing solely for oneself, with no audience in mind, becomes too self-referential and it loses its story value if you cut corners (because, after all, it's just for you.)

  18. If you have never read Dreiser's essay "True Art Speaks Plainly," I highly recommend it. You will see he echos your sentiments:

    "The sum and substance of literary art as well as social morality may be expressed in three words–tell the truth. It matters not how the tongues of the critics may wag, or the voices of a partially developed and highly conventionalized society may complain, the business of the author, as well as of other workers upon this earth, is to say what he knows to be true, and, having said as much, to abide the result with patience….

    …The extent of all reality is the realm of the author's pen, and a true picture of life, honestly and reverentially set down, is both moral and artistic whether it offends the conventions or not."

  19. "I write what I want," is wonderful mantra, but there is a part of me that hesitates to adopt it as my own foremost battle cry. I’m all for art for art’s sake, but what truly makes me excited about a writing or artistic endeavor is knowing there is someone who will share in enjoying the end product. Call it writing for an audience, or what have you, but I feel engaging an audience does not necessarily lessen one’s writing, nor does offending an audience mean the work is better and merely “misunderstood.”

    Write from your deepest inspirations and passions, yes by all means for it is the necessary core, but beautiful things can happen when you find an audience that shares in that passion.

  20. It is obvious you get the same type of unsolicited "advise" and opinions that are posted in our box! You are right in your writing. Most of us do enjoy your writing and you should keep doing what and how you are doing it. Afterall, (probably get a high per cent as our blog) bet 95+% of the visitors you get visit because you write what you write.

  21. Thanks. It's a good reminder. I have to write what I want. The only way to be "wrong" is if I'm not clear. If the words on the page do not make sense to my brain. At the same time, when I think my ideas are great enough for a lot of people to like them, I write for the one person out there whom I haven't met who is waiting to hear what I'm saying. I hope it helps!

  22. I agree with the general sentiment, but with a simple caveat – if you're writing to be read (which if your intent is to share that writing with anyone in any manner, you are), there's nothing wrong with considering your audience's desires. People often think of these things in binary terms, where it must either be the first thing that pops into the author's head or a pandering to the audience's lowest common denominator, but there is vast ground between these two extremes.

    In short, do write about what you want in the manner for which you feel most strongly, but if there's a way to reach more folks without compromising your vision, I'd say it's well worth considering.

  23. Thank you! That's exactly how I feel about it… but someone will need to explain this NaNoWriMo to me. I know… I'm really out of touch… LOL, but if I understood what you meant by that, I might give it a try. I'm just still so new at writing on here… gotta work up my nerve. I've met a lot of people it seems that do write primarily for their "audience", which is great if that's what they want to do, it just isn't what I want to do… Thanks for the nice post though! Validation is always nice. :D

  24. I think it can be hard to remember this while writing – I know sometimes I worry that something I'm working on doesn't have "commercial appeal," but in the end if you write what you love, I think it shows through, and your work is always stronger for it. Thanks for the post – very encouraging!

  25. Thank you for writing this. I've struggled with this too, at times writing regularly and then once a few friends start regularly reading what I write, I begin to freeze up and second-guess myself, what if I write something they don't like? I'm slowly getting better at having more confidence in both myself and my friends, so it's not happening as often now. But this was still a very timely dose of encouragement. Thank you! :)

  26. Hey man I love this article that you have writen. I feel the same way you do about weather or not people like what I write, but its a bonus if they do. I write what write cause I enjoy it. if I can reach a few people and just touch them in some way or another. But what I mostly write is a rant and rave blog, but can be informitive in a way. i will definitely share your link for other to see.

  27. I read different type of writing from their culture, I love to see many people from different country think about a case, and it will be different. But it seems that not all people understand why every writing has it owns unique ….. I like this part, "I write for myself and I’ll say anything I damn well please."

  28. Well said! I am a doodler of drawing and write for a reason, a cause! Sometimes my pictures and writings seem intense and dark. But not really. Just genuine passion.

  29. I agree with you, but there's got to be a fine line there. You write what you want but it just happens to be what a lot of people want as well. I can write about my dissertation process but probably not many people care about that. So my problem is that I am blogging about it to get feedback and comments…I only wish I could get as many followers as you. So I find myself wondering if I should change the focus of my blog to what others want to hear, even though I started it as a way to flesh out ideas with my dissertation and later to have an entire journal of process that I can put together in some form.

  30. Wait that sentence was badly written! What I am saying is there are some personal topics I fear writing about, because I worry what close friends and family will think…I do need to get over that though..There are a couple posts where I did reach out in that direction a bit, like The man in the moon and me and Me and the Family tree. I was pretty proud of those. It felt good to write those.

  31. There really is no secret formula about getting people to read your stuff. But this is probably the closest thing because once you write what you want the context will be better and the readership you acquire will be genuine.

  32. Well said. I was thinking recently about this topic. When I was in high school in a creative writing class my teacher said "I don't get it. You're such a happy easy-going person. Why is your poetry so dark."

    I never really give it much thought. It writes itself, I'm just the conduit. It is what it is. No one should feel shame or worry if their writing is dark. Life has many shades, paint with whatever colors you have.

  33. Writing for yourself and not looking just for reward in the appreciation of others, really liberates one to be anything they want to be. I think that's beautiful.

  34. Yup. Especially with blogging, I find people really like certain presentations/posts. Especially when I include lots of photos and/or other surface meanderings. I get less feedback when I write something gritty, but I don't let it affect whether I write the piece or not. If we cannot be authentic in our artistic expression, I'm not sure there's much hope for the creative spirit. So on we go!

  35. I am participating in my 1st NaNoWriMo, and what I'm writing is dark and sexual and at the same time Christian. Thanks for your words of encouragement.

    • I don't think it's cruel or insensitive, Cristian. Some stories need to be told – the good, the bad, and the ugly. I give you credit for not holding back and stifling your creativity. That's what makes you and others great writers.

  36. I think this reminder is just the motivation I needed right now. (That and the latest one with NaNoWriMo tips.) Oftentimes I'm afraid that my process is too undisciplined, which results in everything I write being subpar. I have discipline when it comes to actual writing, but when it comes to planning it out *before* I write, or knowing anything more than a sketch of it all, I don't do much of that. So not only can I say what I want, I (and all writers) can say it using the process we want to use.

    Okay, I need to get back to NaNo-ing now . . .

  37. I'm a mummy blogger (I know, yawn…) and while I try not to encroach too much on my family's privacy, I do try to get personal. And I've had to learn to toughen up. Because people will always tell you when you've said too much, or said the wrong thing. I pressed DELETE about a thousand times in a recent entry before telling myself to get over it and writing what really happened and what I really thought. And the honesty paid off, best response ever.

  38. Your comments are not cruel, or insensitive …

    Offence is never given, it's only ever taken, and if someone chooses to take offence because of what someone has written, it is exactly that, their choice. You have the right to expression, just as they do, and we really need to learn to live and let live.

    Ultimately, if what You write is an extension of You, and expression of Your inner most thoughts and feelings, then Your writing is essentially You in print. You won't be liked or accepted by everyone, it is most important that You like and accept Yourself, and the rest is a matter of taste for all who experience You. :)

    My writing is me, take it or leave it, the only one thing that matters is what I think of myself.

    Thanks for sharing such an awesome post, I love Your writing!

  39. Ask yourself, 'Will the world be a better place if I write this?' I know a woman who's writing memoirs that expose horrible deeds and I hope she can finish it as a aid to others who might need encouragement to escape their predicament.

  40. no what one writes should be what one feels good/bad happy/sad joy/pain if a person doesn't like what they are reading then stop reading it deleat it move on or read it think about it pass it on so others can like or dislike something to talk about. give thinking a chance

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