Archives for April 2012


Who Do You Write For?

I was mulling over a couple of tweets from @6minutestory recently. The first was a Kurt Vonnegut quote and then a question was posed:

“Kurt Vonnegut said, “Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.” Which one person do you write to please?”

Shortly before that tweet was one for a link to the following quote:

“I’ve met hundreds of students and talked with them about their work… What they really want isn’t fame or fortune but permission to articulate feelings that were somehow off limits within the fragile habitat of their families. They are hoping to find, by means of literary art, braver and more-forgiving versions of themselves.”

— Steven Almond, in his article on writing MFAS

I was struck by a similarity in theme between those two quotes and had to ask myself who do I write for? The Almond quote really resonated with me because it quantified a major facet of my writing life: much of what I write has a foundation in emotions better suited to my (much) younger self. I’m not sure I’m comfortable with that. I think it speaks to an emotional immaturity that I can’t believe I’m admitting to. The fact is, I often write to communicate with or please that ghost of childhood that shadows me.

The question then becomes, how do I learn to write to my adult self? Or is that still too much about me? My interpretation of Vonnegut’s quote was ‘write to please yourself’ but maybe I should learn to write outside myself for an external but presumably singular audience. If you sit down and dissect your creative work – assuming dissection and creation coexist in you comfortably – who is your audience?

My response to myself (because I need more me in my life apparently) is That’s boring! Who wants to write about adult responsibilities and complacency and growing older? Where’s the zing in that? Sure, you could write about nature but wouldn’t you rather make nature a juicy metaphor for emotional upheaval? I don’t know what the answer is, I just know my inner writer and I need to sit down and have a long talk about growing up.