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Two Types of Writers..or three? (Maybe More)

November 11, 2014

I once heard that there are two types of writers. The writers who write for themselves and the writers who write for an audience. I find it far too complicated an endeavor to be one or the other, so I’d like to introduce a third type of writer, a hybrid of both.

One who writes for himself likely has no concern with being published. I recall a period when I wrote strictly for myself. I never once contemplated the possibility of being published. I was very secretive with my poetry.

One who writes for an audience, especially in the realm of fiction, probably has a niche. or sticks to a certain formula or something, and is more concerned with what others want to read as opposed to what he wants to write.

Sylvia Plath said, “I mostly write for me, but I still want to see my work ritualized in print, so it’s not completely pure.”

A hybrid can probably relate rather profoundly to this statement. A hybrid probably writes mostly for himself, but really wants his writing to be accepted, published, read and approved by many. When it finally is, they’ll probably find a way to disagree with everybody. Maybe this goes beyond mere modesty and has to do with insecurity. For example, this type of thinking: “I’ve written and struggled so hard to write what I think and feel, and people are okay with that? More okay with it than I am. How can they think I’m so great when I’m not? If only they knew where this stuff came from.”

The praise is hard to accept and put downs are even worse—for the same reasons! Talk about torment.

Sylvia Plath’s first and only novel, “The Bell Jar,” received great reviews in Europe, where it was first released under a pseudonym, then later in America, where it was released under her own name. Of course, there were a few comments that weren’t so much negative as a bit critical, and she took these comments hard. Ms. Plath suffered from severe depression, she was rather eccentric, and would probably take anything people said rough, finding a way for it to be damaging. She later took her own life.

We do things like this somehow, and I’m not completely sure why. Perhaps some sort of insidious self-loathing mechanism, some free-floating dubiousness about ourselves. It’s like stepping outside and shying away from the stares of pretty strangers. Why are they staring? Not because I’m pretty, because they are prettier than I am. I’m some hideous creature they’ve never seen before, and neither of us knows how to accept it. Then I’m off and running, trying to appear that I am running for the simple joy of running, but everybody knows the truth of why I’m running — I am afraid. We don’t quite understand the fear, and so maybe we write about it.

I guess I’d consider myself a hybrid. I write for me, because it is what my soul needs. Then I want to be published and read, and I want people to appreciate what they’ve read. I also want some to be indifferent to it, because I don’t want to write what someone else thinks I should write. In other words, just because people buy happy stuff now, I won’t quit writing the dark stuff. It’s my style. I write what I am compelled to write, and still, I want people to like my writing. I write from the heart and hope it’s received by their hearts.

Why do you write? What sort of writer are you? Is there even a word for it?

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4 Comments
  1. The last paragraph of your post sums me up as well. Poor Sylvia…
    It takes a lot of courage to make your stand and say you’re going to write what you want, how you want, for yourself first and if others can dig it, great. If not: you’re still going to write it. All the way.

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    • Of course, for you are the one who brought this to the forefront of my attention, when I kept complaining about being unpublished. Now I take a strange sense of pride in my rejection notes.

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  2. I agree with “Writer Born” above, in that your conclusion marks the fluid nature of life, and art, in general. There is no black and white, (in general) there is no single reason to write. Edgar Allan Poe, for example said “For me poetry has not been a purpose, but a passion.” There’s no doubt he wrote because his mind and body told him to, and not because he was trying to please others. Emily Dickinson studied creative writing and wrote over 1800 poems during her lifetime. Most all of her poetry was rejected by mid 19th century publishers, clearly telling her that her poetry did not conform to standards. But she didn’t change her poetry. She wrote her passion. And less than 20 years after her death her poetry completely stormed over the entire world, leaving her as the most popular American poet ever. As a poet myself I write what my passion dictates. Like Sylvia, though, I think it would be wonderful to have my poetry entered into the journals of history, But it isn’t why I write. As a youngster I watched many Popeye cartoons, which are now probably banned I think. But the one thing that Popeye held true was “I am what I am,” though usually pronounced “I yam what I yam.” And I think that is the key. If others like what “I yam” then so much the better. For me the main focal point of why I write is simply from passion, which I consider a gift from God. If others can value my poetry then therein is the icing on my cake. But humility prevents me from capitalizing on something which God freely gave to me. If others next week should find my poetry interesting, then it is no different then if those living two centuries from now should find it interesting. My job is done, my passion spent. My poems are my cedar posts, left for the world. Incidentally, I am a big fan of Sylvia’s, and her other contemporary confessional poets like Anne Sexton. They are a large part of American poetry, though Sylvia moved to London.

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  3. Sylvia Plath is special, probably my favorite. She was a lot more pure than she believed. Wow, Emily Dickinson sure wrote a lot of poetry. It seems to me a lot of writers become famous long after their death; maybe they were living and writing long before their time. I enjoyed your comment, thank you. “Writing your passion” is as pure as it gets.

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