A writer in the woods – evolving from the angsty writer

When I write, sometimes I listen to music. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I wear my jammie pants and sometimes I write while wearing a skirt and sweater.

IMG_20141018_143815382When I was young and trying to be an angst-filled writer, I used to think that I couldn’t write anything worth anything unless I was wearing a very specific ratty green shirt and had a cup of Earl Grey tea in front of me. I had to have routines. If I had a personal (and sacred) routine it meant I was serious about my craft. Often it would take me an entire evening to get the first paragraph out on paper and perfected, and I couldn’t ever write anything else until that very first paragraph was worthy. Because, well that was the way I worked… and this was how I envisioned real writers did it.

But times have changed. I’m not even sure if I have that old shirt anywhere (it might be hiding in the back of a closet, but I doubt it) and although my drug of choice has changed to coffee, I don’t keep it near where I write having ruined far too many keyboards from reaching over a pile of books and spilling drinks over the years. Keyboards cost money, something that that earlier writer might not have been so concerned with (Dear Mom and Dad, somehow my typewriter broke…)

My point is that writers grow up, just like everyone else. We evolve. We mature. We realize that writing is a job and not just a fanciful, artistic quest. We realize that mortgages have to be paid, school sports equipment has to be purchased, and if you want to drive, you’d better purchase some insurance.

No longer do I have to try and struggle to force a thoughtful perfect phrase from my mind. Instead I sit down and say to myself – “Okay, let’s begin” and then I do. From hours and hours and hours of practice, I have learned how to craft a story and I know where the beginning is, the middle, and the ending. I may not even start at the beginning because often I don’t need to, by the time I sit down to write, I know where I’ve come from and I know where I’m going.

Of course this all begs the question – whatever happened to that angsty young writer of yore? Did she disappear with the roles and responsibilities of life (it’s tough to be angsty when you have a slew of young children who’s needs trump yours) or does she now just face the inevitable music?

Now, if an editor wants me to change a sentence or cut a paragraph, I say “yes, m’am” and I make the cuts. No questions asked. Although my words and thoughts are important, at the end of the day, it is my audience that matters most.

I’ve learned to write for my readers instead of for my personal release. Oh to be sure, I put my personal stamp on my writing and it is definitely unique to only me. But I’ve come to accept something that I hadn’t ever bothered to consider in my youthful ambition and it is this: much like a tree falling in the woods, if no one is there to read your words, then is it really writing?


Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.


14 thoughts on “A writer in the woods – evolving from the angsty writer

  1. “It is my audience that matters most.”

    “I’ve learned to write for my readers instead of for my personal release.”

    Oh, God, I have to keep these two in mind. At all times if I want to get anywhere with my writing.

    “Much like a tree falling in the woods, if no one is there to read your words, then is it really writing?”

    I definitely love this one. Thank you for sharing 🙂

  2. I just posted a piece where I pondered what other writer’s world look like (even asking if they had an old, lucky sweater). This is a great answer to that! I am still that “young writer”, but the process is helping me get where I need to go.

    Thank you for this insightful post.

  3. I love this post. I think that the first step of becoming something is to style yourself as that thing – push the self into that role. Then when you get comfortable there, you actually become that thing, and from there you can create what that thing is. It reminds me of Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics – at first, you have to force yourself to be rational and virtuous, and it takes all kinds of effort. But then, after you’ve really internalized these qualities, you actually become virtuous, and its so easy and enjoyable to be so because its now the shape of your character, rather than something you have to mold yourself into.

    I hope that makes sense!

  4. Having had a long career as a tech writer, audience is the utmost importance. While I grew up in an era where it was chic to be an “angsty artist,” I never felt the urge to be one. I just always wanted to write.
    Your observation that an audience is important to your work is spot on and relevant to being published. Well written!

  5. Duuude I totally write for myself and let it all out. I create a story and characters that I think are interesting enough to keep people engaged. It’s my voice….then when it comes to the editing process that’s when I craft it into something for my target audience. I tend to use a little of both.

  6. Hi Wendy. I keep telling myself I have to make it easy for readers. While it’s boring for me to keep writing dialog tags, they are going to need them. And, if I go back after three months and read that stuff, I need them too. I think writing a draft and putting away for three months is our most precious gift to readers. We become one of them, however briefly, before we become writers again.


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