“I haven’t written in weeks,” one of my writing friends confided to us at our last writer’s group meeting. “When I first started this story it came pouring out. It was so exciting. I loved it. I wrote for twelve hours a day. But now it’s done and... I don’t know. It needs a lot of work.” She sagged in dejection.
“The honeymoon is over,” I said. “Now you have to decide why you’re doing this.”
She raised her head and stared hard at me, then gave a slow and thoughtful nod.
I went on, telling it to myself as much as I was telling it to her, “Now you have to decide, did I write that story for me? Because I needed to get it out, I needed the catharsis? Or did I write that story for my children, my grandchildren, my brothers and sisters, everyone all over the world. If you wrote it for you, then you’re done. But if you’re writing it for others,” I cupped my hands over my heart, then held them out to her, “now you need the discipline and sacrifice to make it into the gift that you want it to be.”
I've thought about this conversation a lot. Over the summer I wrote a book just for me, a fun idea I wanted to try. When I read it again last month I had to admit that it wasn't working as well as I had hoped. I hadn't been thinking about my audience, about what they needed to know to understand the world, the characters, the story. I gave no thought to what they would find interesting, or moving, or exciting. It was a lot of fun to write, but when I became the reader, I didn't enjoy it nearly as much.
If I'm going to make that book work, now I have to apply discipline and sacrifice. I have to revise it so that others will see in it what I saw in it when I first dreamed it up. I have to remember why I'm doing this---so that others can feel the same joy I feel when I read a book that I love.