There was an interesting post over at HTMLGIANT by Catherine Lacey that caught my attention this week. The topic was a question posed by Lacey, in which she asked folks if they would continue to write if they knew no one was going to read it.
Well, would you?
When I first started writing in early highschool I wasn’t expecting any one to read my work. I was just beginning to play with words, their sounds, how to fit them together to make something new and how to get across my teenage angst without lopping it in some Dear Diary sort of way.
Very soon after, however, I discovered the joy of people reading my work and actually liking it. It’s a pretty awesome feeling and I was the only one out of my peers who was remotely interested in the task so it made me feel special. Most of my work, pre-2003, is pretty embarrassing and I hope it’s been lost by now as I was so caught up in metaphoric writing. I’m glad those days are over.
Admittedly, I don’t submit much work. I just don’t have the time. I also don’t get much gratification out of it. I know a lot of people do and that is great for them. My gratification comes out of the release of words. Writing has always been similar to an orgasm for me. Once it’s released, I can get on with the rest of my life…make a cup of tea….take out the dog…get an oil change. I feel a million times better. I suppose my accomplishment lies in the fact that I said what I wanted to say, changed my bit of the world, and now can leave it there. Much like Lacey in this article, the publishing high does not last long for me. This is probably the case for some. For others, writing without having a few pairs of eyes look at the creation is probably not enough.
I often think to myself that if it wasn’t for the internet, how successful would my writing even be? (Not that I have garnered any actual success!) Would I have the time or the dedication to shop myself around like the ole’ days? It’s much easier to say, “Hey, millions of people on the internet, here’s my newest piece on twitter!” than to go door to door begging people to read your work, holding events for people to hear your work and printing up free samples for everyone. I don’t think it hurts my feelings much that I probably fall into that category of “internet only” poets. Afterall, I have an actual full time job that keeps this roof afloat.
But if no one ever read your work, it would almost be selfish. I had a professor at University who told me that if I didn’t want any one to read my work I should stop writing because writing for myself is an egotistical task to take on. In time, I sort of saw her point. You can’t really continue to write to spark change, or to light a fire under someone’s ass, and not show it to any one.
But what about you? What drives you to write? Does it matter if people read your work?