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Finding the Purpose of Your Creative Writing

Finding the Purpose of Your Creative Writing

For your creative life, as many artists have learned, there is a solitude and ego-gratifying state of self-revelation in which it really does not matter what you paint, write, or build, or whether it is any good or not, or if anyone likes it--even you. This is a delightful state of affairs in which one may fully realize the innate pointlessness of the arts: The artist may create, and then destroy his work as inferior, just tossing it in the trash can. Audiences are similarly endowed to do the same. They pick it up or maybe not; they tune in to your television show or not, etc. In our society, many artworks and written works have a shelf life of literally only a few days. After that, they are gone, forgotten, at least in the popular imagination.

It is kind of a disposable view of the arts; but for the artist, this is a liberation, granting the freedom to mess up, start over, do it again, or do it another way. Your writer's block may vanish as you accept that your words are temporary, not set in stone. Obviously, any of us would prefer that our works might become national treasures and be preserved in libraries around the world for ages. Apply this idea to your writing, that it is just not that important, and you will free up a lot of creative energy.

But along those lines, we also can consider the true-to-life fact that a working writer or a successful creative writer often composes material based on the expectations of a buyer, specific audience, or fan base. Does an author like Stephen King, widely known for his horror novels, ever just sit down and write poetry for his wife? Why do national newspapers so seldom publish short stories, fiction, or poetry? When writers are hired to pen a screenplay in a certain genre, such as martial arts action, they had better not turn in a screenplay with counter-intuitive elements like a cute family story with horses and young women, or a comedy with Broadway show tunes.

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For all of these, the writer is called upon to tweak his or her own desires and ideas to suit the expectations of the assignment. There is no shame in this. To do it well means you may find more work than other writers, or keep your job as a newspaper editor, etc. A lot can be said about media expectations and why things are the way they are on news programs, situation comedies, and so on. Literary and presentation formats build a box over many years. The creators of those like the box and believe it works, so they never go beyond that or, if they do, it takes many years for new approaches to appear in use.

However, you as an individual writer can leap over this hurdle much more easily. For one thing, it really is the case with almost all of your work that if you do not enjoy it or find it persuasive, enlightening, original, frightening, hilarious, and so on, no one else is likely to find those characteristics in it, either. You really can observe in your work, for example, a comedy, that if you sit at your keyboard and laugh a lot while writing it, bingo! It is funny! The same is true with the other forms. This is not simply pleasing others; it is pleasing yourself, and that is the only way your work will rise above the level of mediocrity.

Another thing, especially with writing, is the idea of personal integrity. No writers really want to work on material they simply find offensive or they disagree with. It is done, and it is done a lot, certainly in legal, scientific, or political fields. Writing for yourself here means believe in your message and your words to achieve much stronger writing and easier creative flow. No beliefs, you say? Nonsense! Your entire makeup as a person, your childhood, your education, and your observations, have crowded your mind with beliefs your entire life. Cultivate, refine, back up, and endorse what you are telling people, even in a fiction in which the story may have a less mechanical meaning. Do not shy away from taking a stand, and you will be writing for yourself in a way that others truly will appreciate.

In another area, pleasing other people with your creative writing is sort of the worst thing you can do. Your mother will forgive you if you feel compelled to take a try at a little erotica, or your conservative brother may just have to pass on your liberal essay on the legalization of marijuana. In a way, we are always trying to please others with anything we write; otherwise, it might as well be gibberish. Language is a consensus that people share; there are serious violations of common ground rules make people wince. And then there is the issue of ego-gratification and the real reason you are doing all this writing, anyway. There is no bad reason for excellent artwork; but, on the other hand, that same solitude that gives a writer his or her own headspace in the working of it all can be full of all kinds of meaningless emotions and motivations, many of them negative, that somehow end up on the page.

You can take this a bit further and write for yourself by doing just that: creating compositions, poems, stories, essays, etc., that never are intended to be read by even one other person. As Cyril Connolly said: "Better to write for yourself and have no public than to write for the public and have no self."
A diary is a good example. It may seem narcissistic or self-indulgent, but it is the sort of thing a writer will do. You can keep notebooks full of whimsical ideas, which can be useful or not, and toss them all out at the end of the year. Or you might keep a devotional, like a prayer book, for just you and God, again, if you are religious. This is a very personal thing, but the discoveries you make about yourself, in the realm of ideas and self-healing, can be the ingredient in the rest of your writing that sets you apart or gives you that quality readers enjoy.

You are never alone in your writing; there is always that second set of eyes, the audience, the reader, even the imaginary reader, or the so-called other. That is what writing is for: other people. However, much like the business world, personal relationships, right-and-wrong decisions and choices, family, and so on, by putting yourself first when the rubber meets the road, you put the other person first in a way, and the dance of creativity is more authentic, real, and easy.

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