On Life,  On Writing

It’s all about me.

I started off this post a while back, and my life has kind of exploded. I am on my summer hours (no Friday work!) and so I can stay up later tonight (no 10 pm bedtime! Hurrah!). So I thought I’d take time to rework this post to be more than something I just slapdashed together

So, it’s a little before 10:30. I had looked at my writing places, trying to figure out something I was in the mood to write. And finally, I just decided that the muses weren’t cooperating and that I was just going to sign off of all the distractable Internet places and go to bed.

And then I stumble across this quote. Just randomly on the Internet.

“The target audience is me. I try to make something I like. That’s literally the only consideration.” ~ Alex Hirsch, creator of the Disney series, Gravity Falls.

And it’s off to the races.

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I have saved partial beginnings of stories scrawled on the back of church bulletins from when I was a teenager.

I remember researching escalators to see how someone could be pushed down one when I was writing the beginning of some spy novel that has never been finished.

Ideas come to me all the time. I see something on my drive to work and I think of ways I can incorporate it into a story. I wonder about a person walking down the street and what his or her story is.

Thinking of life as a large novel with various characters coming in and off stage really appeals to me. Stories are, to me, the undergirding of it all. For we really all truly are a story, in the end.

So with writing, it’s really more of a mindset and a way of seeing life than it is an “ability”.

But when you look at life in that way, it becomes hard to change the big scope down to the smaller picture of nuts and bolts of the publishing world.

When I was in my twenties, I wanted to move to California to become a screenwriter. Obviously, I never did that. I also took just about every writing course you could take in college. I interviewed at publishing companies to do editing. I kept plotting and scheming to write something I could publish. For a long time, I tried to find ways to make writing a career.

And it seemed to be echoed in the people around me. For many years after that, people in my life would tell me “you should get published.” My high school writing teacher told me he could see me writing stories for women someday.

But my writing and my pursuit of it as a career has always been hampered by a couple of things. (1) That I loathe marketing and everything about it. I don’t like promoting myself and I don’t like the sales pitches you have to do to get through the hoops to the end result of a book being published (2) That I am, at my very core, extremely and fiercely independent. I don’t like people telling me what to do. I don’t really want to have a publisher tell me what to write. I don’t want to have the worry of writing in order to pay the rent. I don’t want a company owning the rights to my stories and publishing them with or without me. (3) I have worried about what people in my regular life think of me and what I choose to write. Questions about whether the subject matter is something I’d be judged for or how people would see me by reading things I wrote. I had an experience this past year along those lines and it was very interesting to me how visceral a reation I had–that urging to protect what I’d written away from someone who wouldn’t understand or necessarily appreciate it.

And so, over the years, I haven’t known what to do. How to go forward or even if I go forward. If I do, what do I write? And what method of getting the story out there do I employ? How do I cope with the exposure of myself and what I think or what I’m exploring in my writing to people in my life who I know wouldn’t understand?

Mostly, I just want to write in all sorts of different directions. Meandering around, enjoying the wild ride of the characters telling me where we go next.

I want to be able to write about faith or tragedy or good actions from bad people or good people making tough choices. I want to explore things I don’t necessarily understand but want to. I don’t want limitations. I don’t want judging eyes, and I don’t want people telling me what to do.

And so I am at the point of trying to figure out what the best balance of that is.  Of what I can do to settle those warring things inside and determine what is the best way forward.

But coming back to Alex Hirsch, for a long time, I wrote with people in mind.  What readers might like or what someone I know in my life would approve of.

As I’ve gotten older, I’m trying to break free of the restrictions of the naysayers.  They said I was too bad at sports to join their teams.  I ran a marathon.  They said women never found jobs in IT and that women over a “certain age” were almost impossible to place in jobs.  I started a job three months after I graduated with my master’s.  I started out not knowing anything about HTML.  Now I have a master’s in computer science.

It’s obvious that I can do things that I put my mind to doing when I want to do them.  So it really comes down to what I want to do about my writing, as opposed to what others tell me I should or should not be doing about my writing.

I know one thing for certain. I’m writing for myself.

I write the way I see things. I write the truth that I know.

I’m glad, at the end of the day, that there are people who like what I’m writing, and I’m grateful for them, their comments and their support.

But I write what I like, and I’m the only person I’m trying to please with my writing. And I want that to be the foundation of what I spring off of in everything that I’m doing with my writing.

So what does my reader side want to see coming from my writer side?

That is the question.

One of these days soon, I hope I’ll answer it.


  • Mary Allen

    What do I want to see? What YOU want to see. And if I don’t like it, that’s on me and has nothing to do with you.

    I truly think that the only way to write is for oneself. That’s not to say that people don’t write for other people because of course they do. But they are choosing to do that, and must know what that ultimately “means” to them. I know it isn’t easy when you write for a living and need to pay for food, housing, etc. But in the end, it’s still a choice. I wonder how different the writing is when she’s writing for her boss versus writing exactly what she wants to write?

    And I’m with you on not being thrilled with the idea of marketing myself. I’m an extrovert and thought makes me want to hurl; I can’t imagine how much worse it must feel for an introvert!

    • Julia

      Oh, Susan. Such a wise post. When I finally let my stories fall from my head and onto the page, all I wanted to write was what I wanted to read. Since I stopped doing that-stopped writing altogether-I haven’t been happy.
      Like you and Mary, I hate being told what to do. It’s kind of weird because I actually like rules and order and doing the right thing. Still, in my own little universe, I’m a control freak. I’ve never really agreed with write what you know. I believe in write what you love. It needs an essence of truth, but where would crime fiction, fantasy and sci-fi be if we only wrote what we knew?
      And I now only read what I love, too. I used to read a lot of fan fiction at Jix to be supportive, but then I realised reading my favorites behaving out of character actually distressed me.
      I am so glad you do write, Susan. The world is better for it.

      • Susan

        Huge hugs, Julia. I hope you can return to the writing that made you happy. It made ME happy to read it.

        And I did the same thing–reading fanfic I didn’t love to be supportive. Perhaps the best thing for everyone is to read and write what you love and let other people read and write what THEY love.

        There are always bound to be kindred spirits who want to read what you write in the world. I know I love to read your stuff and hope you come around to a place to feel like doing it again.

        And thank you for those wonderful comments about my writing, too. You made my heart happy. *hugs*

    • Susan

      Mwah, Mary! *hugs* And yes.what you said makes a lot of sense!

      Maybe that’s what we need–you can market for me and I can market for you. I’m perfectly happy to rave about you and your writing to anyone who will listen! *grin*