I consider myself to be a fairly average curmudgeon. I mean, I can find the negative in most things without too much effort, and I also have proven skills in the whole pessimism department.
I’m not bad either at dealing with positivity, inasmuch as I can scoff at it just as well as the next man. But this makes it difficult to explain why I find the whole New Year thing a bit hard to deal with.
There’s a lot of hope and ambition and well-wishing going on at this time of year, in writing especially. The internet and Writing.ie are awash with people making plans and fixing goals for the year. Some even go so far as to make changes or plans which will result in goals for life. It’s all a bit much for a month when the days are still as short as they were the month before, but without any twinkly lights to go on.
So when it comes to my own writing goals for the year, I’ve decided focus on what I’m not going to do, rather than what I am going to do.
And lately, I’ve been thinking about who I’m not writing for, much more than who I am writing for – but more on that later.
First, More Negativity!
It seems to me that for those of us without a clear writing remit (put positively, this is the freedom to write whatever we want; put negatively, this means we’re probably not getting paid to write anything at all), the potential for going off track is enormous.
When you can write whatever you want, for whomever you want… well, who do you write for?
It’s clear to an established author that they should probably write for the audience which loved something they did before; or they may decide to break their editor’s heart, and write for another audience entirely.
But if you can’t be sure who you’re writing for, should you perhaps think instead of those you’re not writing for?
Think About It – Sometimes I Make Sense
Writers are always told to write what they’d like to read, which would mean that in the first instance, we’re all writing for ourselves.
That’s fair enough, but not even Mother Teresa would have written a book and said sweetly ‘oh, even if nobody were ever to read my book, the joy I took from creation was enough’. I mean seriously – does anyone think that the Bible or Qur’an or Torah were written for the pure joy of it?
Instead, when we first sit down to write, we’re not doing it for ourselves: we’re all thinking about who might read it. And it cripples us.
Sure, eventually we get over it – for instance, I didn’t even break a sweat while writing my last five death threats. But when it comes to fiction, it’s different.
Who out there has ever written a sex scene without imagining their mother or nephew reading it?
Who amongst us hasn’t lied at least once about our chosen literary genre, afraid either that people won’t think we’re up to it, or they’ll think it’s beneath them?
And which of us haven’t written 5,000 words of a new story only to think “Oh dear. This is beginning to look a bit Jack Reachery/Harry Pottery/Christian Greyish…”, only to promptly die of embarrassment at the thought of our work colleagues reading it, and no doubt scoffing at it?
Nonetheless, one of the benefits of being such a dastardly curmudgeon is that I can always be relied upon to come up with a negative solution to a problem.
And so, without further ado, here is a handy list of all the people you are definitely NOT writing for in 2019. Print it out, stick it on your wall, and prevent the ghosts and shadows of Never-Were Audiences and Imagined Begrudgers from haunting your writing nooks!
A HANDY LIST OF EVERYONE YOU’RE NOT WRITING FOR IN 2019
- Your mother.
- Your aunts, cousins, children, siblings, great-uncles, and the granny who never liked you.
- Your past, current, and future work colleagues.
- The next-door neighbour whose overly-trimmed hedges make you think of Hitchcock films.
- The cool kid in your class you asked out when you were 15, only for them to laugh in your face.
- Your ex-spouse.
- Your current spouse.
- Your next spouse.
- Newspaper editors.
- Book reviewers.
- Serial Killers.
- Mongolian Tribesmen.
- Jack Reacher.
- Tara Sparling (negatively speaking).
And To End On An Uncharacteristically Positive Note
The last time I posted on Writing.ie, I was very excited about the Irish Book Awards, and they didn’t let me down. It was a mighty event, even if I did pretend to be a vegetarian for some reason even I couldn’t fathom at the time.
But little did I think that I would discover that night who it was I was writing for.
I don’t normally approach the ‘talent’ at awards thingies unless I’m either introduced to them, or well acquainted with them already, but I couldn’t let an opportunity slip by to accost Donal Ryan and tell him how wonderful I thought he was. My ready excuse was that our homeplaces are only a smallish lake apart, so we had a geographical affinity I was prepared to exploit without mercy.
Of course, this was Donal Ryan we’re talking about, so he was absolutely lovely about it, and we had a deep and meaningful conversation about delivering potatoes. But I nearly died when he said he read my blog on Writing.ie.
So if you’re asking me who to write for, well: I’m writing for Donal Ryan, and that’s a fact. That’s literary Kevlar, right there. The rest of you can write for whomever the hell you like; but he’s my reader. So there…