The other night I was out with M and I was talking about something inane having to do with either my novel or writing in general. M hadn’t the foggiest what I was talking about and I got frustrated because despite M’s apparent interest in my annoying “writer talk,” it sometimes becomes quite obvious that I’m simply being humored. So right then at the bar I went on a terrific rant [the following], much to M’s blinking surprise. (Thankfully I dropped the whole thing and we went on to talk about NBA All-Star weekend and MJ’s 50th birthday…Rightly so.) M really deserves a cookie or something for putting up with my shit.
I think one of the worst things other writers spew off to me is this: “I only write for myself. You don’t? That’s terrible!” and then they look at me like I have five heads. I find it admirable that some writers have only ever given a damn about doing this one awesome thing for themselves–cool–but others. Wow. The ones who tout they “write for themselves” as if it’s some sort of accomplishment, though still plaster their work across the internet or have several published works. If their claim were really true and they were some sort of purist, why the hell do they give a damn if anyone ever sees their work?
I have never once in my life ever simply “written for myself.” It’s because when I was a kid I read to be saved. I read stories written by my heroes because they saved me. SAVED ME. And I decided then, when I was a stupid kid, desperately wishing to run away, that I wanted that, too: to save people. So I started telling stories…I write to save people. Do I write because it’s what I have to do? Yes. Because if I didn’t, I’d die? Yes. For all the same reasons as any other writer? Yes. But just “writing for myself?” No. Jesus, that just sounds selfish. I will absolutely admit that I (somehow, someglorioushow) save myself with the actual process of writing stories. You betch’ya, I do. But in the end I couldn’t give a shit about saving myself from all the monsters that ever haunted me. I want to save everyone else because once upon a time some guys named JRR Tolkien and Ray Bradbury saved me by flashlight when I was tired of hoping maybe “it all” would just go the hell away. Once upon a time I decided that maybe if my heroes could save me, I could do that, too. Maybe I could give people a reason to believe in “once upon a times” again, too.
I don’t write to save anyone — but you’re right, I was saved by Tolkien (and in my case) Aslan. That’s a high calling.
I write to be read. I want to be read. I want to touch other folks through my writing. I write for myself, but I want to be heard.