When I’m looking at comprehension with my students or if they’re doing a writing task for me, I explain to them that they need to know two things.
‘Who’ are you writing to/for? Are you writing a letter to your friend, or your headmaster? Are you writing a magazine article for teenagers or the elderly?
‘Why’ is your purpose. Are you writing to inform? To complain? To describe? To entertain? To suggest a solution to a problem?
Although these may or may not necessarily apply when writing creatively, recently I have been having difficulty in understanding these two simple words in my own work.
Like all of us who write, we do it because we love writing. We feel compelled to write things. We have these sudden bursts of inspiration and callings to put pen to paper or thumbs to the notes section of an iPhone and scribble down or tap out an idea, a punchline, a character trait, a bit of dialogue an opening scene or an ending.
I started writing when I was 14 years old. Back then, there was no audience, it was only for me. And there was no reason to write other than the fact that I really enjoyed it. Granted it was shit, and part of me knew deep down it was shit, but it didn’t matter. It was something for me to enjoy.
As I’ve developed in my writing, I have also developed the desire and realised the brilliance in sharing your work with others.
This brings an audience.
This brings editing.
This brings late nights.
This brings bags under eyes.
This brings crumpled pieces of paper littering your floor.
This brings folders and files of unfinished pieces because you’ve forgotten what the point in the story was.
This brings low self-esteem when you haven’t written anything half decent in weeks and your month by month game-plan-to-do list you wrote for “going in hard” in 2012 with the best intentions has already fallen behind.
You can see where this is going …
We all have goals and dreams in our small fields of passion, whether it be writing, photography, art or whatever. The more we practise it, the more likely we are to want to share our work and get recognition from people. It’s brilliant when somebody you admire likes your work. It’s amazing when somebody you’ve never even met before likes your work. That moment when someone approaches you after your set, or a random person who saw you on stage at a festival emails you saying how much they liked your work – that’s nuts!
Lately, I’ve forgotten the reason I started writing and who I started it for. At times, I’ve become angry, bitter, reserved, unsociable and frustrated with the lack of words on my screen or the amount of shite I’ve managed to type up into a Word Document all day. I’ve forced upon myself pressures of wanting to please or get the recognition of my peers, or trying to think too hard about where my writing is headed or have allowed myself to become too consumed in wanting to reach new audiences. I’ve spent too much time telling myself I don’t market myself enough and I need to set up an up-to-date Youtube account, a decent Facebook group, a well advertised Twitter feed, a professional Linkedin profile, an impressive website and a topical blog.
It’s good to be focused on what you want, but at the end of the day, I don’t want to forget why I started writing and for who.
I like it and I do it for me.
Hopefully, everything will fall into place around that little bit of thinking.
About The Author
Alex Gwyther is a language teacher and spoken word artist. He tells tales of life in Britain, such as the pound-a-pint Wetherspoon shenanigans of a Saturday night in Staines, to the poignant re-telling of the Christmas truce in the First World War. He has performed at venues and festivals across the country.
His first booklet of poetry will be published this year on Nasty Little Press.