How to Protect Yourself From Resenting Your Work
Writing isn’t about the writer. It’s about the reader.
Are you going to like my next book?
If I had a crystal ball — if I could look into and ask it anything — I think that would be my question.
Am I writing a story that will make a difference?
Will this story become your story?
The hardest, most terrifying part of being a writer is not knowing. It takes so long to write a book. It’s so much effort. So much heart and soul and work.
And you don’t get to know whether what you’re writing will connect with anyone.
I love the work — but man do I wish there was some way to know, for sure, that I am writing a story that you will love.
There’s a sentiment in the writing community that says no one would do this work if they didn’t love it. It’s too hard. It’s too heartbreaking. Too slow moving. Too prone to affect your mental health.
But I don’t think that’s true.
I do think you have to believe that what you’re writing is good. But, lots of people write even though they don’t love the work.
Or, maybe what I really mean is that they write things they don’t love, even though they’re well done.
They become successful in one genre or with one audience, and maybe some money comes. Some notoriety. Some attention.
And it’s hard to break away from that.
It’s hard to turn away from the money.
It’s even harder to give up the attention.
One of my early mentors was in this position. A decent writer who’d lost passion, because he had to put his best creative energy into writing something he didn’t want to write.
He wrote it well. He knew he wrote it well. But he didn’t love what he was doing. That didn’t stop him from doing it well enough to earn a living. Well enough to gain precious attention.
The biggest lesson I don’t think he ever knew he taught me was to fiercely protect myself from being sucked into that trap.
I also learned from him that readers can love your work, even if you don’t. They don’t care too much about whether or not you enjoy creating it for them.
My philosophy is simple. Write what you want to read. You’ll find other people who want to read it to.
And be wary of writing to market — writing something only because you’re pretty sure you’ll make some money or gain some attention. You might succeed. Be sure you really want to.
Writing is not about the writer. It’s about the reader. And it’s easy to accidentally gather up the wrong readers for you, and then get caught up in trying to please them to keep the money and the attention flowing.
I can’t control whether or not you’ll like my next book.
But I can make sure that I love writing it.
And I can make sure that if you do like it, I won’t secretly resent you.
Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She is an out-of-place Nevadan living in Northwestern PA with her husband, three superstar kids, two dementia patients, a good friend, Alfred the cat, and a yellow rescue dog named Maybelline Scout. She’s on Twitter @shauntagrimes and is the original Ninja Writer.