As a creative writing student—both undergraduate and graduate—I encountered two predominant philosophies among my professors. (This is stereotyping to some degree, but stick with me for a moment.) One philosophy says: You have to write according to your own internal motivations or creative impulses. If you’re serious as an artist, you’re not thinking about the reader or the audience—doing so leads you astray from the purpose of art, which may discomfit or challenge the reader.
The other philosophy is more concerned with establishing a relationship with the intended audience. How would readers react to or be engaged by the material? How do you create a bond between writer and reader? How much can you demand of them?
Here’s another stereotype: the more literary the work, the more likely the author ascribes to the first philosophy. The more commercial or genre-driven, the more likely the author has concern for the reader.
But that’s not to say the two approaches don’t co-exist in the same author or in the same work. I was reminded of this when reading Victoria Alejandra Garayalde’s piece in the latest Glimmer Train bulletin. She writes:
Mostly, I write because I need you and see you, and I write out of the desperate and fragile hope that you might see and need me too. I see writing as a way for me to create a path of connection to others, to this life, and to myself. It’s not easy to forge a path through all the debris of self-doubt, fear, self-hatred, and outside messages of selfishness and expectations. This is why I write in the mornings, because that is when anything and everything feels possible—or at least enough to warrant an attempt.
Read her full essay, I Write for You?
Also this month in Glimmer Train: