In last week’s round-up of favorite blog posts, I shared a piece by Steven Pressfield that posed the question, “What kind of writer are you?”
Pressfield shared an epiphany he had about his writing career while struggling to find common ground between the stories he wanted to write and the box office hits his movie studio clients wanted him to churn out. The conflict between his own aspirations and those of his employers caused him to take a good, hard look at his identity as a writer:
In other words, for the first time in my twenty-plus year writing life, I found myself confronting the questions, “What kind of writer am I? Why am I doing this? How do I define success as a writer?”
Am I a writer for hire?
Am I a genre writer?
What kind of writer am I?
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I have not yet come to a point in my own writing journey where I can clearly and definitively label myself as any particular kind of writer. Honestly, I’m not sure I should want to. I’m a blogger and a columnist, a copywriter and a developer of marketing messages. I’m also an aspiring fiction writer who constantly berates herself for her inability to make more time for that particular pursuit. I’m also a writer simply by dint of my lifelong journaling practice, which I started at the age of seven.
Defining the “what” of my writing life has always seemed less important to me than defining the “why.” Digging into why I write is a topic that I return to again and again. I have written countless entries in my personal diaries and journals, and I have also written on the topic here, and here, and here (and probably elsewhere, but I can’t recall).
But now I wondering if “Why?” is the wrong question to ask.
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What if, instead of asking what kind of writer you are, or why you’re writing, you asked yourself who you’re writing for?
Because – here’s the thing – I can guarantee that you aren’t writing into a void. Even if no one else ever reads what you write, you’re writing for someone.
That someone might be an individual, or it might be a group of people. It might be your mother or father, a long-lost love, or your child. You might be writing for people who have experienced a loss or trauma similar to one you have endured. You might be writing for people who feel alone. You might be writing for immigrants. You might be writing for people who need a source of hope, or people who believe in right vs. might, or people who search for magic in the world … just like you do.
You might be writing for you.
You might be writing for your younger self, telling the stories that would have made a difference in your life, had you read them when you were a child or a young adult.
You might be writing for the person you are today. Giving yourself a pep talk or the chance to reflect or a simple diversion from the trials of life.
You might be writing for the person you keep hidden from the world, or the person you know you could be if you could only find the passion or the courage or the joy.
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So, ask yourself – who are you writing for?
And then ask yourself why you’re writing for that person or group of people. Are you trying to make them laugh, smile, or cry? Are you trying to show them something new, change their minds, prove to them that they matter? Are you trying to inspire or humble?
And that will help you understand what kind of writer you are.
Start with “who,” and the rest will fall into place.
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.