I cannot think of anything more challenging than simply writing for ourselves. That's writing with no expectations of having your work published. That's difficult. Colleagues suggest that a good story exists in nearly any idea that comes along.
For example, Mrs. Jones' husband dies of a heart attack in his sleep. He's a middle-age man who was in good health. Suppose she had a reason to kill him? Now, we can start to build a cast. Of course the wife, a detective, doctor, his family, the children, her friend, the lawyer and so forth. From who's point of view do you write the story? The wife? The detective? The doctor who was a forensic pathologist before he changed to cardiology? Then we need to extend the plot and develop an inciting incident for Mrs. Jones. Are the police going to arrest her and place her children into foster care?
Would you follow that story germ if you wanted to simply write for yourself? I wouldn't. It's too contrived and it says nothing about me. If I write for myself, I want it to have significance in my life. I want to write the kind of book I would want to read. That can include the awe one feels when he or she or me enters the St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans. I don't have to concern myself with what others think about my faith. If you don't like Catholics, then so what. It's not your story, it's mine.
When we consider writing for our own entertainment, our intention requires purity without any thought of material rewards. If you attempt this, you'll find that your addictions will surface. You will think about an event from your life and the next thing you know, you'll unwittingly begin to structure the scenes and start to think about how impressed a reader will consider it. We have little control over that internal process. It's an autonomic response and part of what evolved into our dominant response pattern.
Along the subject of writing for yourself, I see that "how-to-write" writers have already chimed into the topic. When they suggest that you write for you, I 'm sure that they don't understand the difficulties of doing that. This essay is not advice that says "love what you do and agents and publishers will jump at the chance to sign you to a long-term contract." This kind of write for yourself project sounds like a good idea in the beginning, but as time goes by, it gets tough.
Keeping "how-to-write" writers in mind, look for two types of advice exist out there. First, you will run into people who have little claim to success in publication outside of their how-to books. You've seen advertisements like this in many writers' journals. "Best-selling author,William H. Forrester III can get you on your way. His latest book, "how to write winning mystery novels" won a readers' choice award (in the greensheet). Thousands have attended his seminars and taken his on-line courses and so on."
In my humble opinion, this guy has no right to claim that he can help you.
Then, you have people who have done it and want to share their experience with you. Three distinguished ones come to mind. Notice their advice:
The benefits of writing purely for yourself, rather than for publication, are limitless - Evan Marshall 
Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self - Cyril Connolly (1903 - 1974) 
When the reader hears strong echoes of his or her own life and beliefs, he or she is apt to become more invested in the story – Stephen King 
How would you respond if a relative unknown, but established author told you he or she just completed writing his or her best work ever, but refused to submit it? Would you consider that writing for one's self?
I believe conventional wisdom would say that the author had a serious personality disorder. An established writer with a good publishing relationship has a high probability of selling that book. The publisher's marketing department would go to work immediately. Reviewers would start the publicity mill running.
I could use the money. Writing mentors like those I mention above (aside from Marshall, Connolly and King) would say that if you or I wrote the book for ourselves, it's probability of success would be high. What's wrong with offering your best work with the world?
Stephen King wrote in his book On Writing, "I don't believe writers can be made, either by circumstance or by self-will...The equipment comes with the original package." 
He asserts that large numbers of people had some talent to write and tell stories. He further suggests that talent could be strengthened and sharpened.
Read his book, "On Writing", and ask yourself a simple question. If you didn't know he was the author, would you consider him an arrogant jerk? I didn't ask if the book had value, because it does. In my opinion, more people than he suggests can write and write well. Perhaps it's a function of education on motivation.
Many people have the gift of writing well with less effort than others, but I have other considerations. Talent does appear to come with the initial equipment. That talent, however, can become so aberrant by our culture, parents, teachers and friends that we lose touch with it.
A joy can exist in writing, whether or not you have the extraordinary talent to become published and thus a celebrity. Sometimes the drive to write exceeds our self-doubt and the beating we take from our socialization and the bullies that inhabit the playground.
I've had enough talent to publish varied and sometimes decent work. I wrote a nice book about Linux that went international and popped up in placeswith different languages like Mandarin in China and Spanish in Latin America among others. Turkish, Russian, French, Japanese and Croatian versions still exist out there. That Linux book is just one of several titles. I also received some accolades along the way, but I'm just an average writer and a lucky one with one exception: I lost my love of writing.
Losing one's love of writing is as tragic as losing one's love of women. It's a bitch.
In the beginning of my career, I enjoyed my writing so much that I couldn't imagine why I received rejection slips. If I loved what I wrote, surely others would. I couldn't imagine it any other way. I justified my rejection by telling myself too many people submitted stories to my choice of magazines and the readers didn't have time to really get into my work. I also justified my unwillingness to ask Jeanie Martin for a date, because I thought she would have men lined up for years on her calendar. If a more beautiful girl ever existed, I have never seen her. Come to find out years later, she was so beautiful that even the most arrogant jerks were afraid to ask her out. She sat home on Saturday nights.
Back then, I just feared rejection. Eventually, my strength of will broke just enough that writing stopped becoming my first love. With honed skills and a solid education, I became a writer for hire. The waters became even more poisonous for me. Suddenly, my day job got in the way of the joy.
I can't recall feeling more alive than when I wrote for no reason other than seeing the words on paper. I want it back. By retracing my steps, I saw a plethora of events that separated me from a metaphorical Penelope. (Reference the Odyssey by Homer and Odysseus' ten-year journey to reach her.)
The longest journey begins with a single step - attributed to Lao Tzu (c 605-c 561 BCE).
When I drift off to sleep every night, I start with a dream. I woke up one morning and realized that dream comprised my best story - my story. I love that story. It has nothing in it about sex. That's all I will say.
My story has little to do with what pundits would call commercial. I wrote it like my other ones. It has a beginning, middle and an end. It contains a romantic interest and a sub-plot for her. I use a confidant, antagonist and a couple of other viewpoint characters. The conflicts and inciting incidents exist and get worse. It reaches a point of hopelessness in the end and then a victory. The boy and the girl live happily ever-after.
As I wrote above, it's my story. It's my own personal story and lives in the dreams I hide from the world. I feel a tinge of terror when I think of sharing it with the world. It's so intimate to my identity, if I shared it, then it might metaphorically feel like standing naked at half-time during the Super Bowl. At least I thought about that when I first considered writing it. Now, I'm not so sure. I'm not ambivalent, just conflicted and I'll explain that as we go.
When I write commercially, I hide behind a mask. You don't know me. You know that I have a skill set, a strong work ethic and a superior agility with the standard body of knowledge of writing. I can edit my own work and I don't mean copy edit. I can edit commercially like in structuring dialog, creating subtext with knowledge gaps, metaphors, implications, questions and so forth. And so what? Really. So what? It doesn't intensify my awe of life and that's what I look for organically.
Considerations I have about creating a higher visibility than I have include trouncing around from city to city, book fair to book fair, talk show to talk show and signings to signings. Critics would have an opportunity to step on my story. Producers, publishers and their editors would cut scenes and add falsities to the plot. I think of those things and say:
I'll flip hamburgers before I'll let anyone read my story.
That's me uncovering my system of denials.That sentiment doesn't last long. Those moments rarely emerge and when they do, denial of denial throws its metaphorical blanket over my head.
Does that sound familiar? Ponder it.
The Writer's Dilemma
Skill is not a good substitute for authenticity. You and I may have the ability to write well. We may have a knack. We may have proficiency and dexterity, but can we emotionally afford the vulnerability to share or lay bare our soul? Can we afford not to do that?
Sometime around my fourteenth birthday I fell in love with writing. I could sit in front of a typewriter and whatever I put to paper astonished me. I questioned the source of the composition. Did I do that? Did it belong to a muse? Had I channeled some entity? I did it. I just didn't know me well enough to recognize how everything worked together.
I have other avocations and other vocations. None substitute for the high I once experienced when I began writing. I want to recapture that experience. I know that I lost it when I "sold-out". I just can't remember when. Sound familiar?
I easily identify with Patricia Highsmith when she wrote,
I end this [book] with a feeling I have left something out, something vital. I have. It is individuality, it is the joy of writing, which cannot really be described, cannot be captured in words and handed to someone else to share or to make use of...
On the pleasant side, there is the sense of being completely and happily engrossed in a book while writing it, whether the writing takes six weeks, six months or much longer. 
I have theories on how to recapture the sheer joy of which Patricia Highsmith wrote. I don't believe the joy comes from mastery of technique. It comes from solitude, refusal to edit as we go and maintaining our space. By space, I mean zone.
If I want to write and refuse to open up to you, then I must become the audience. Read my manuscripts after I die, but don't turn my wounds into fodder for the supermarket rags and the entertainment slocks and their audiences. Perhaps some people will put up with it. I often question if they have sold their souls for 35 pieces of silver.
Write It and Then Sell It
I'm not offering advice here. You have to do what you do. I offer no peer pressure or some holy shrine. I would ask you to consider two words - skill and authenticity.
Perhaps you can craft a story and it makes people happy. Others have done it. Take Homer and his Iliad. He could weave a story with the best of them. Shakespeare did all right as one of the world's great plagiarists. I suppose. The money came to those who acclaimed him after his death though. Consider how many versions of Hamlet exist and how a committee of scholars decided how the Bard would have consolidated them.
I wonder if either Homer or Shakespeare spoke of the anguish of first love and its rejection during the height of its emotion? It's still there for me. I loved that girl and I felt she teased me. Did she tease or did her family refuse to let her out of the house? I know she loved me. You want the details? No. Did it kill every relationship I had after? Yes. You want those details? No.
The power and depth of my demons offer nothing unique. You have them too. How far inside the pain are you willing to go? If you go there and compose around it, would you really share it with the world? I wonder. Isn't it safer to create a pretense of your reality and hope someone falls for it? It happens all the time. Imagine your favorite celebrity urinating down his or her leg or suffering from diarrhea. You find out they stink and have an IQ of 94. The photographs, however, fooled you and 100's of thousands of others. The kids on American idol may look composed, but how many mood stabilizers do the producers give them?
Advisers will tell you to write your heart out and write what makes you happy. Write what's interesting to you. It will be sure to sell they say. I don't get it. Maybe you can. I have seen so many tears in the eyes of those who open thin envelopes. Rejection is a bitch.
Passion and Inspiration
My best work resulted from bouts with extreme disappointment. I mentioned falling in love. I didn't mention she was a "tease". You must know the situation in your own life. How many "teases" have you met? Henry Tudor got trapped by the most famous tease of the past millennium, Anne Boleyn. You know her. She plays hard to get. Men do the same kind of thing.
You meet someone and ordinary life just stops. Your emotions catch fire and protective defense mechanisms slow down or cease. Like a computer, you put certain processes on hold such as dial-up modem services. You don't need it and it slows down your computer. That's a metaphor.
Passion inhibits the mind and allows one's soul to eliminate the rituals upon which daily life depends. It inhibits our coping mechanisms. Suddenly, you want to pick up the phone and just communicate with your lover for hours on end and your lover becomes so involved she wants to carry-on forever. (Substitute "he" if necessary).
Your concerns with risk diminish. You can ride the most exciting roller coast at the theme park, sneak into movies without paying, buy a drink with a fake ID and smoke weed. Music sounds remarkable. You notice that the Beatles produced Magical Mystery Tour for special alterations of the senses: Heightened ones.
Your emotions become strong and barely manageable. You stopped studying or attending to your work duties. You let your grades drop. You became social. You wanted people to know about your love, so you show her off. You miss her whenever she's away.
To pass time you write poetry, not ordinary poetry, not cerebral poetry, but special poetry. You write the kind of poetry that jumps off the page and has true meaning. You notice every love song in every elevator, in the background of department stores and restaurants. You see every movie in every theater. You're not content to chill out on the sofa, you want to make passionate love and please your partner in every way possible.
At the height of this compulsive, crazy, supercharged state, your vulnerability means little to nothing. You share your deepest secrets. Neither of you can hardly listen, you want to talk, but the conversations manage to work for both of you.
Then, she's no longer available. She starts to criticize the things she loved about you. You can't just turn off the chemistry and return to ordinary life. You want to know what you did wrong.
She doesn't answer the phone. You leave forty-two messages on her voice mail. You find the DVD of "When Harry met Sally" and hope you can turn it around.
You can't sleep, so you write and write and write. Page after page flows. You haven't hit the wall yet. Ordinary life doesn't set-in, even though you know it's your only chance to stop the pain.
You don't want to visit a therapist, but you read every book on how to survive the loss of love. You meet a beautiful woman in the same awful state of pain and you use each other hoping to get over it. Neither of you can transfer your passion, but you have no one else with whom to relate.
Time passes and your transition lover turns the corner and starts to return to normal. You don't want to lose her, so you begin to turn the corner too. Writing seems futile. A year passes and you can't turn on your laptop. You try, but you have nothing left to say. Ordinary life starts to creep back. You wonder how you allowed yourself to fall so hard. You have laid the foundation of the fortress around you and every relationship from then-on, becomes ordinary. Even sex is ordinary.
What happened? We've repressed our natural or instinct driven thoughts and feelings that we believe were unacceptable in society to fit-in. We create a double self. The one behind the wall and the one who wears a mask.
You know you're a writer, maybe an author. Behind the walls of your psyche though, you look for inspiration, but can't find it. We say that there's no one out there. We're so repressed and protective that our denial refuses to see anyone or anything that can inspire us. Seven billion people live on this planet and we have the audacity to say that no one is "out there".
I have lived on three coasts, maybe more if you say the Caribbean, the Keys, Northeast Atlantic, Northern and Southern California count differently. I thought one of those places could inspire me. They didn't. I lacked the stimulation to do or feel something creative. I could write technical, non-fiction and journalistic stuff, but that was never "the dream".
Really. What happened? A good therapist will tell you that the human mind contains a dimension that is only partially accessible to consciousness. That's psychobabble.
Remember the movie, "The Mask” with Jim Carey? He fit this idea of an acceptable citizen. He even worked in a bank, which most people would call the home of society's denizens. Then he finds this mask that facilitates an outlet for him to act out his inner self.
Inspiration can come from within us, but I don't have that faculty. I have looked for inspiration from divine influence. That doesn't work, because I'm too occupied in that area with keeping my feet on the path. I feel like I'm climbing a mountain with my finger nails dug into the rock. I have a long way to go. Maybe my double self won't let that intangible force enter either.
Does any of this sound familiar?
I think of Edgar Allan Poe. One might ask about his psyche. He tried to earn a living writing alone. He had a difficult life and career financially. History suggests Poe established himself as the first well-known American writer to work alone. He died at age 40. In 1835, he married his 13 year-old cousin who died 12 years later. No one seems to know how he died, though many suggest suicide. His death occurred four years after his wife. Was he the actual raven that cried never more?
To the lonely author who will only write to one audience, himself, the world looks ordinary. He's lost touch with any source of inspiration. Guys and gals all look the same, only different. Attractive people might get you going for a few days, but they really don't stand a chance. You're shut down. That author echoes the message of the raven when he says never more.
Self-deception and Truthful Motives
A scary side of writing for one's self and one's self alone exists in the power of habit. How long have I had the motivation to gain acceptance in the world of men through writing? Even though my story is my personal story, I notice the tendency to alter the episode enough to continue hiding it. To what purpose? To publish it.
That comes from an enduring habit. I wonder if I have bottomed out enough to change. Like a drunk, it might seem like a good idea to stop boozing when faced with a threat only to return to the bottle.
I can see myself sliding back. How many pages will it take for me to really break that habit? How many solicitations from others can I ignore when faced with the possibility of never traveling again to an exotic place? The money tempts me. You know the profile: Just one more assignment. Just one more asshole willing to pay me to write his or her story.
I have to remember the situation. I repress myself and wait for the client to get around to spending time with me. Otherwise, I sit. My life goes by and while I get paid, how much have I missed that I can never get back?
The Slush Pile
You may not want to read or hear this, but without a doubt, the so-called Indie market has let loose the flood gates of the slush pile (normally reserved for submissions to publishing houses and magazines). No doubt, publishers have failed to land a great writer and great works by failing to take unsolicited manuscripts seriously. Then again, a reason does exist for calling it the slush.
In publishing, the slush pile consists of the combined stack of query letters and manuscripts sent directly to publishers by writers unknown to them. Sometimes people do sift through the slush pile, but rarely.
If you don't know how to write for an audience and,or lack the necessary skill set needed to produce good books, you've diluted yourself by maintaining hope that your style of writing will become the next big fad a la 'stream-of-consciousness'. But don't take the joy out of it. If you like what you wrote, that's all that matters. Unfortunately, allowing unskilled writers to freely self-publish (unabashed) has dumbed down the art form. Like most mass produced goods, we lose something in the process. It's not what you expect. You will have a bad taste in your mouth and discouragement will sour you on your own story.
I do not submit unsolicited manuscripts for a couple of reasons. First, I know that no one will read them. I have direct experience with that in more than one instance from the publishing side of things. Here's an example.
In 2004, one of my publishers contacted me to write a specific book for them. They recognized my expertise in the subject area and needed to fill a void in their portfolio. I accepted.
Keep in mind that I said one of my publishers. I had just finished a book for them the previous year, which they published to some fanfare. I submitted a proposal for a follow-up book, but never heard from them. After I signed the contract for the solicited book they asked me to write, I mentioned the proposal. The acquisitions editor said, "Oops. The secret is out." No one reads those proposals.
Secondly, I don't have an agent. I'm known for non-fiction and haven't needed an agent. I have written novels and screenplays, which have sold. Screenwriters rarely receive the recognition reserved for top tier mystery writers. Also, 99%+ of all optioned screenplays will never see the light of day. Producers do their own thing and use people known to them. If a producer meets someone randomly and asks for a script, then it has a chance of being read. My first "paid gig" as a writer was a screenplay and an accompanying novel. I wrote the story for an independent studio. My name did not appear in the credits and the producer published "Jeb" under his own name. If I meet an agent I like, I'll consider working with him or her.
You see, I'm not submitting any unsolicited manuscripts or queries. I'm not going to self-publish and I'm not interested in digital publishers. I'd rather flip hamburgers.
Can we really write for no one else?
At this point, it looks like a major challenge. Recently, I hit a snag. I'm going for an authentic experience and suddenly, I realize that I can't recreate her. I know absolutely little to nothing about women. As a writer, I find it essential to get into the skin of a character and express them.
I find the essence of the challenge as such: male and female writers address their readers as if they were the same sex as the writer. Females write for females and males write for men. Males dominate the writing field especially in screen writing and film which impacts the popularity of novels. In this epistemology, women are merely props.
With male domination of the field and the fact that we live in a patriarchal society, females as serious viewpoint characters are excluded. This is the culture in which we live. My particular story involves an important female character. I want and need to know how she feels about me. To do that, I need to live in her skin. Writers have to get that concept or they're just pedestrian.
Getting into a character's skin (still in previous topic)
If you don't relate to the above, then consider Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal Lecture's character.
Who wrote the part played by Sir Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs? Hannibal Lecter is no stereotype mustache-twirling Snidely Whiplash. He's the creation of crime novelist Thomas Harris, but Ted Tally brought him to life on the screen and slam-dunked a bunch of Oscars in the process. How many Oscars and how significant a part did his antagonist play?
Silence of the Lambs won Oscars in all the top five categories: Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. In 2011, the Library of Congress (one of my old bosses) designated the film as "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant and was selected to be preserved in the National Film Registry. Ted Tally is your man.
In an interview with IGN Entertainment, Tally said:
...it was hard to write Dr. Hannibal Lecter's dialogue at times because, Well, he's crazy! ...and he's brilliant, too... it's not an easy character to channel in that way, as a writer, you have to kind of put your imagination into weird, dark places where it doesn't want to go...he's coming from all over the place and he's very witty, and he's got to be three or four steps ahead of everybody else – including the audience. He just has such a capacity for meanness, and mischievous, and he's always amusing himself.
Ted Tally "channeled" the character of Hannibal Lecture. Let's reiterate what he said. "It's not an easy character to channel...you have to kind of put your imagination into weird, dark places where it doesn't want to go."
This brings up a few issues for me. I have attempted to channel a woman character. If you ever attempt to channel someone of the opposite sex, then you can relate to what I writing here. It scared me stiff.
For some reason(s), I don't want to know my feminine side. It's quite painful for me. Maybe it's homophobia or the peer pressure I experienced in school. Maybe it's the abuse I experience from parental figures like my mother, school teachers or those monster clerks who say, "you can't do that." Maybe, I'm frightened of what I would look like as a girl. I think I would look ugly. Maybe.
Regardless of the fear and trepidation, I need to jump out of the plane and find out what it's like to have (at least) a glimpse of what I need to know to write from a woman's point of view. Otherwise, I only have a man's perspective of women.
"The great question that has never been answered, and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul, is 'What does a woman want?'"
-From Sigmund Freud: Life and Work by Ernest Jones, 1953
Freud lived in an era of patriarchal entitlement as in man has dominion over the earth. Women have to have a similar question. For me, I would say "What does a man want?"
The female character's voice
As I began to write my story, I experienced new horizons that I didn't know existed. You might call it awakenings. I doubt that I would have considered these dimensions of myself if I took an assignment and hit the floor running. The female voice is one of those dimensions.
I have found no information about how to inhabit a female persona while many writers discuss the need. They say that they feel frustrated at the lack of this kind of information. A few (and I mean a very few) discussions exist about creating a female voice. Maybe that's a way into the experience. Unfortunately, the discussions include multiple contradictions.
I have found some suggestions and I'll paraphrase them. (I find it difficult to understand some, such as the first one).
Circular thinking dominates a woman's mind. The circular thinking involves relationships and emotions. They become emotional. Men think linearly. Women need powerful reasons for the things they do in stories. In literature, a woman character should have a strong enough character that she doesn't need a man. She wants romance more than sex.
Understand the closeness of women's friendships with other women. A male's friends would not know if he was a predatory stalker, but a woman's friends would know.
If a man knows much about females they tend to write in extremes. "Do's and Don't's" are too general. Many women don't fit the high-school cheerleader or wannabe cheerleader role.Many women don’t like chatty, gossiping women. Intelligent women have little interest in clothes, shoes and celebrities. Many women spend time with men and don't run in packs.
For a male writer some generalizations work if he knows when to apply them. (This worked for another manuscript I wrote). A female investigator will have some male traits. When she looks for dresses and shoes, she doesn't see them like other women. A transformation in viewpoint occurs.
In a story, a woman might start-off as a super feminine type, but as danger gets closer, she gets stronger physically and smarter.
The discussions of female voice didn't answer my question. What does she think about when she first wakes up in the morning? What bodily experiences does she have? Does she drink coffee and does she take it black? What things cross her mind when she chooses her clothes for the day?
How does she respond to a man that seems indifferent to her? If he finds her attractive does she like that? In my story, what feelings does she have about me? Was there anything that attracted her?
I began to get a better sense of the female character by reading the voluminous articles about how women write male characters. For example, one person wrote that when a woman wants to share an experience, she will tend to explain every detail including her emotions. Men seem to hate that. Men will ask them to get to the point. Oh, men are interested, but they only want the essential points and not the detail.
A male character will only provide facts in short, abrupt sentences, which bother women in real life. Men tend toward more logical, analytical, systematic dialog. Strong men tend toward curt, clipped, concise answers and hold back on details.
Using reverse logic, we can easily get a sense of the female voice. I put that to work and began to get a glimpse of the character.
The Existential Struggle with Self
The existential struggle with self ties in with one's motivation to write just for yourself. Such motivation flies in the face of the core principles of social well-being. This isn't the age of social well-being. It's the age the self (sometimes referred to as the age of me...me...me...me).
If society has become a grouping of people concerned with self, then what happens to culture? Family values have all but disappeared. Commitment doesn't mean what it used to. It's not an oath. It's a word we use when convenient in the manipulation of another or others to get what we want at the time. When someone says he or she gives me their word, I immediately become skeptical. Wedding vows are comparable to something that turns into appendicitis. Why do people bother to exchange wedding vows?
If you follow the tone of the preceding paragraphs, you might wonder if I have something against this time or epoch of mankind. I do. It's a paradox. First, I stress writing for one's self, then I complain about the self-centered society in which we live.
I don't see it as a paradox. It's not an "every man for himself" philosophy. It's a way to extract one's self from a society prone toward isolation and isolating others and results in depression, personal distress, apathy and crippling personality disorders. This is a time for true artists to return to art for its own sake and forget the popularity and celebrity that's aimed at finding teenage girls and boys in your bed after a "showing" or "signing".
I dare to speculate that western men and women struggle with the avoidance of humiliation more than anything else. We want to look good and have people accept us. We have a problem with acceptance: no one cares. No one cares about your art unless you have some celebrity they can use to impress guests at a dinner party. Your guest look at the wall and recognizes a contemporary work and the host goes on and on about the artist, where he found the painting and how much it cost. The author's fine work stands out as an item on a coffee table or the corner of a desk in a finely furnished and dysfunctional office.
In the space of "no one cares", we have to generate acknowledgment (for our work and accomplishments) by ourselves and find satisfaction with that alone. It's not something to do in opposition to the way society operates. It's not for self-realization. It exists strictly because we say so and for no reason, rationalization, justification or need to be right.
Writing for yourself does not constitute a search for the demands of our inner authentic being. What would you do if you met your inner authentic being? I wouldn't know him. I can just imagine such a meeting. You know, the doorbell rings, you go to the door and say, "Who's there?" A voice answers, "I'm your inner authentic being." You reply, "I gave at the office."
In the scheme of things, no one really cares and what if they did? Ultimately, celebrities like groupies, but authors don't have groupies. If you take up the life of a Top 40 musician, you can have your pick of groupies. That is, unless you're Janis Joplin who complained about the lack of male groupies.
The summary of my desire to only write for me lies partly in my desire to avoid humiliation. My story, which I call my story, exists because I want to express how I deal with the world and all that. Frankly, it's nobody's business. You've heard that saying, "It's nobody's business, but my own."
"Hey Tom," someone says. "I heard you got laid off. What happened?"
"None of your business," I reply.
Have you ever heard someone introduce Alcoholics' Anonymous? I don't know if it's a universal way of doing it, but here goes. You go to a dance. You walk into the community center and the guys are lined up against the wall on one side and the girls on the other. Music fills the large room. You and your friend go outside and ingest something you brought in a flask. After a few minutes, your inhibitions disappear. You go back into the gym and walk across the floor. You ask the best looking woman to dance and she says yes.
You've just solved your problems for the rest of your life. It just takes a little liquor. You become oblivious to inhibitions and start to hang out at the pub, where you can suddenly talk to any woman. It just takes a little more liquor as your body adapts to it. Ultimately, because of one's inability to control him or herself when drunk, isolation occurs.
Does an Existential Struggle with Self Really Exist?
I say no. If anything, it's just fear. How we handle fear determines our ability to succeed at any goal.
You can get through your fear and still fail. I can walk up to a woman and introduce myself, which once seemed impossible. She looks at me and says, "bug off." I say, "but I handled my fear of rejection. Doesn't that count for something?" She replies, "take a hike."
The Cosmic Tease
You may have heard of this phenomena. A guy has so much trouble making relationships work that he simply writes off women and relationships all together. He clears his head so thoroughly that a thought of a woman never crosses his mind. It's like wearing off the opposite sex. Men do this more than women. Colin Farrell went public with an oath he took to swear off women. In an article back in 2009, Contactmusic.com wrote:
Hollywood lothario COLIN FARRELL has sworn off women following his split with writer Emma Forrest last month ...he's planning a period of celibacy. Rather than use his break-up....as an excuse to revert back to his womanising ways, the Alexander star has declared he's staying away from women to focus on his career, telling pals, "I've had enough of women."
Interesting how his sincerity created a challenge for women. Suddenly, he's inundated with a-list hotties attempting to get his attention. Don't underestimate the power in this metaphor.
When you begin to write for yourself and only yourself, opportunities will present themselves. It's human nature to respond to outside stimulus. We'll give up our commitment unless we have really bottomed out. Just remember the cost of selling out.
Here's what Ernest Heminway wrote:
Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness, but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.
If you want your work to become irresistible, then you have to learn this. One cannot feign it. If you say you're writing for yourself, but you are only doing it to produce great work to publish, then you've already failed. The slate must be clean.
Where to Begin
I'm ready to make a daring assumption that you understand the costs versus the benefits of writing for yourself. If so, then you might ask some questions:
What entertains you?
What problems from your earlier life remain unresolved?
If things could have turned out different what would you have done?
What do you know now that would have helped you then?
How would a failed romance turned out different if you could have behaved differently?
What regrets do you harbor?
Do you have any festering resentments?
Do you need to get closure on anything?
You might want to consider seeing a film called the Family Man with Nicolas Cage and Tea Leoni.
Cage's character, a wealthy investment banker, sees a "could have been" if he made a different decision in the past. He's alone on Christmas Eve when a Don Cheadle's character tries to convince Cage's character to take an earnest look at his life. The Cheadle character puts Cage into an altered state where he's married to Leoni with two children. The glimpse of another life transforms his character.
Consider this a suggestion. You can also consider any genre you like. The notion involves writing for you, entertaining you, maintaining a private story for you and you alone.
Now the Catch
If I didn't make it clear before, then let me make it damn clear. Stephen King is not my favorite writer. He's definitely not my favorite anything, but he still adds value. Just when I think I've had all of him I can take, he surprises me with something quite profound.
On page 57 of his book, "On Writing", he quotes his first editor, John Gould:
"When you write your story, you're telling yourself the story," he said. "When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story."
He writes further, "Your stuff starts out being just for you, in other words, but then it goes out. Once you know what the story is and get it right - as right as you can, anyway-it belongs to who wants to read it. Or criticize it."
end of quote
I have to write for myself or my stuff sucks. Perhaps I have to fool myself into believing my story is only for me. If I don't, I wind up thinking how great this or that paragraph will blow a reader away. Then I begin to write around it. I start to edit as I write. I spend way too much time thinking.
If I do get my story down, then I'll consider editing it. When I do, it's no longer my story, as King wrote, "it belongs to whoever wants to read it."
I believe that's the point. Always write for you first.