I cringe whenever I hear an author say, "I don't write for an audience; I write for myself."
Well, of course she writes for herself. So does probably every other writer, including me. Writing keeps us sane. But I have three teenage girls, and when they pick up a book, that story isn't just the author's anymore, it belongs to my daughter; it's in her head and how she responds to it could change a lot about the way she thinks.
If you're published, you're writing for an audience.
If other people read your stuff, you're writing for an audience.
Anyone who takes their manuscript out of its drawer and hands it off to someone else has written for an audience.
And there's a certain amount of responsibility that comes with that, like it or not.
Words have power to change lives, and that's something you've got to take into account when your work goes out into the world. As John Gardner points out in The Art of Fiction, somebody who reads your book may be desperate, or suicidal, or otherwise in trouble, and your book may be the tipper, one way or the other. Especially when you write for young people that's true, because kids actually listen, unlike adults.
Your words are power; what are you going to do with that?
There's this poem by D.H. Lawrence that's been in my head for about twenty years. I've removed one politically incorrect line, so nobody rises up in outrage and threatens to beat me with a stick, but when read it, I can't help thinking about writing, since that's what I spend my hours doing.
We Are Transmitters
As we live, we are transmitters of life.
And when we fail to transmit life, life fails to flow through us.
That is part of the mystery of sex, it is a flow onwards...
And if, as we work, we can transmit life into our work,
life, still more life, rushes into us to compensate, to be ready
and we ripple with life through the days.
Even if it is a woman making an apple dumpling, or a man a stool,
if life goes into the pudding, good is the pudding,
good is the stool,
content is the woman, with fresh life rippling in to her,
content is the man.
Give, and it shall be given unto you
is still the truth about life.
But giving life is not so easy.
It doesn't mean handing it out to some mean fool, or letting the living dead eat you up.
It means kindling the life-quality where it was not,
even if it's only in the whiteness of a washed pocket-handkerchief.
Even it's only a book I wrote.
Writing is a happy thing for me. It's fun. I do it for myself, because I like it, and some of my work will never see the light of day, because it really is just mine. But once I consider letting it leave my hands, D.H. Lawrence and John Gardner start talking in my head, and that changes everything.
I hope they talk to you, too.
Imagination doesn't just mean making things up. It means thinking things through, solving [problems] or hoping to do so, and being just distant enough to be able to laugh at things that are normally painful. [Some people] would call this escapism, but they would be be entirely wrong. I would call fantasy the most serious, and the most useful branch of writing there is.
--Diana Wynne Jones
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