This post is for writers, especially those who need some encouragement.
The quickest way to kill your enthusiasm for writing is to write what someone else wants you to write.
Seriously, it’s as simple as that. This is your story. You are the only one who can write it. While I know the urge to please everyone is a strong one, it’s an impossible goal. If your books reach enough people, there will be someone who hates it. Whether it’s the main character, the plot, some technical inaccuracy, the writing style, etc, there will be something someone doesn’t like. You can’t avoid it.
Go on and check your favorite traditionally published authors who’ve been around for years. Do they all get 5-star reviews? No. There are people who don’t like their books. Take a good look at the 1 and 2-star reviews. Now, keep in mind that these are your favorite authors. Do you agree with the reviewers who didn’t like those authors’ books? Or do you think, “Wow, those people don’t understand how brilliant these authors are”? Or maybe you can see some value in their criticism, but you enjoy the authors’ books anyway, so you really don’t care what the critics had to say.
I mention all of this because there’s one truth in writing that often gets overlooked.
Taste is subjective.
People’s tastes range in a variety of areas. Not everyone likes the same songs, same movies, same art, same food, or the same houses. I could go on, but you get my point. If we all liked the same thing, life would be boring. Case in point, I hate mysteries. If the only books available to read were mysteries, I’d never read anything. Also, there are certain types of heroes I can’t stand. I hate the hero who sleeps around. As soon as one pops up in a story, I toss the book out.
So you see, readers come to every book with a set of biases. Is that wrong? Of course not. Writers come to every story they write with a set of biases, too. I have my biases, and you have yours. This is why I am the only person qualified to write my story, and you are the only one qualified to write your story. Stories should be as unique as a fingerprint. People who love your work should be able to read your story and see “you” in it. Your voice, your writing style, the type of stories you write, and the types of characters you use should all be like a fingerprint.
Does this mean you should write the same stories over and over? No. You definitely want to write different stories. If you wrote the same kind of story all the time, it would bore people. But you will have things you lean toward. You’ll naturally lean toward a certain genre. You’ll naturally lean toward certain character types. You’ll naturally lean toward a certain time period, whether it be historical, contemporary, or futuristic.
The key is to embrace those things that most excite you. Instead of asking, “What does someone else want to read when they pick up a book?”, ask, “What do I want to read when I pick up a book?” If you are the person you are writing for, you will have an enthusiasm for writing that energizes you. You’ll come to your work with overflowing excitement. You’ll be anxious to get out of bed just so you can write.
I’ve approached writing both ways. I’ve written for others, and I’ve written for myself. Each and every story I’ve written for me has been my best work. When you write the story you want to write, you will naturally do your best. The characters will come alive. Everything will be like a movie playing out in your mind, and all you have to do is type out what you’re watching. The story takes on a life of its own. You end up falling in love with your own work.
This is what writing for passion is like. This is why writing for passion matters. Writing for passion means you write what you want to write. You kick out the critic who’s telling you what others want you to do, and you focus on the creative part of your brain that tells you what you want to do.
And as inspiring as all that sounds, I know it’s not easy to do. Sometimes you’ll be tempted to give into the critic. I get tempted, too. But I have good news.
There are some ways to help combat this temptation so you can focus on writing what you want.
1. Take yourself offline when you write. No emails, no messages, no texts. Set aside a routine where you get away from all distractions and just write. You can have your favorite music in the background, white noise, or silence. The point is you learn to write when you’re in a relaxed atmosphere where there are no distractions. After a while, it will get easier to focus on the creative side of your brain that wants to tell the story.
2. Embrace positive people. We need to watch who we choose to let into our circle. Writers who are negative will end up bringing you down. Now, we all have our bad days, and there’s nothing wrong with venting one’s frustrations. But if someone in your circle is continually negative, you’re better off parting ways. These people are toxic, and they end up draining you of your enthusiasm. Also, avoid the nitpickers who like to find fault with everything. They will never approve of anything you write. Don’t give them power over you.
3. Stop listening to authors who write to market. Their goal isn’t the same as someone who’s writing for passion. These authors want sales. They’re interested in the bottom line: money. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not going to help you find the inward fulfillment in writing that only passion can bring. If your goal is to have joy in writing, then you can’t focus on the same things they do. It’s easier to put your focus on where you want to go if you choose to listen to other authors who have the same mindset that you do. So find authors who also want to write for passion and listen to them.
4. Remember this is your book. You are the writer. It’s your name (or pen name) that is going on the cover. This should be something you’re proud of. It should be something you get fired up about. This should be something that you will want to read over and over again in the future. Yeah, I know that sound egotistical, but if you aren’t 100% excited about reading your book, then why should someone else be excited to read it?
5. Keep the end game in mind. The end game is for you to be happy with your book. If someone doesn’t like your book, it’s not the end of the world. There are so many books out there that there is NO reason why you have to write the book the critics want to read. They need to go find an author they can enjoy, and if they can’t do that, they are free to write their own stuff.
6. Focus on people who love your books. Ignore the critics. We are writers who write what we want to write, and we shouldn’t be ashamed of it. Take joy in what you do. I promise you that someone out there will love your book exactly the way you wrote it, and people who love what you do are the ones you should focus on. My advice is for you to print out the positive feedback you get on your books and put them in a place where you can read them whenever you start to doubt yourself. Repeat this to yourself as much as you need to: “I do not write for everyone.” You will never please everyone. It’s pointless to try. But you can please yourself, and in doing so, you will please some people.