“Write to please just one person”– Kurt Vonnegut
I came across this helpful advice the other day on “discovery engine” Brain Pickings.
Being a fan of reading self-helps, how-to’s, tips and lists, I often find writing advice painfully obvious or boring. I don’t paste quips from various writers in Pinterest-worthy display above my desk nor do I partake in any zen-like daily writing practices.
Writing for me has simply been a creative hodge-podge that sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. I let my gut and my heart take the reins while my brain often holds on for dear life (hence the occasional typo).
With all that being said, this simple quote from Vonnegut struck a chord with me. It’s doubtful that the author said the advice with Internet writing in mind, but needless to say it is more than applicable.
Being a blogger does something to you.
It confuses you.
“Am I writer or am I blogger?” you ask yourself.
Some people are just bloggers. And I’m not implying that with any negation. Bloggers are excellent curators, they may have an eye for trends and they often add interesting and useful content to this world. Writers are often bloggers too. They’re not one or the other. They’re both.
Sometimes people start out as bloggers and discover that they’re also writers. Blogging is an excellent avenue to test the waters of your writing skills. You get instant feedback. You also don’t waste time with writing a piece of crap book before you’re ready. Blogging is a good indicator to see how your talent is coming along.
A blog forces you to write every day (if you’re dutiful). In that you will become a stronger writer. In some ways it will make you weaker as you try to cater to a larger and broader audience. Your traffic stats begin playing a factor. You start paying attention to what posts get the most comments or Facebook shares.
These things begin to very much matter to you.
This is where Vonnegut’s simple, yet brilliant advice comes in. At the end of the day, after all the effort put into keeping up a blog (the writing, the sharing, the responding), you should remember one thing: write for just one person in mind.
One can interpret “write to please just one person” many different ways and for me it simply means, “Forget trying to please everyone, write for you! You’re that one person!” Writing to please yourself is important. If writing is an unhappy and dreadful experience, then something is wrong. Readers will sense this.
The quote also reminds me that one person = one voice. Don’t try to write material that is not you. You have that singular, wonderful writing voice within you and nurture that gift like a tiny baby.
One day it will grow very big and very strong.
For writers, it is often easy to get wrapped up in the minutia of blogging. Don’t let this happen. Write to please just one person. If there is any quote you should be adhering in beautiful typeface above your computer screen, it is this one.
I think that one and “writers write” are the best two I’ve read.
I know I blog for myself, but I’m also trying to make a career for myself as a writer. That means taking on any freelance jobs I can find.
But I still write for me. I may be assigned a topic, but I still have to care about it and write something that I’m satisfied with.
so really, writing for yourself is the best idea no matter what your actual audience is.
Great post, and I so needed to hear this.
My favorite writing advice is, “keep your butt in the chair.”
Easier said than done.
Interesting advice. What if your butt is getting bigger (like mine)?
Then, get a treadmill desk! ;p