Cleolinda Jones (cleolinda) wrote,
Cleolinda Jones
cleolinda

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An interesting point has surfaced over and over again in comments to "Fifteen Minutes"-related posts. Basically, it boils down to the idea that I was clearly keeping this journal for myself and not for other people. At one point, someone said that the first "Fifteen Minutes" was funnier because I'd clearly written it for myself and my friends; someone else today said, "Unless you write your stuff in order to get fans... why on earth do you even care if people post it without giving you credit?" (ETA: I just wanted to step in here and add that I thought these were interesting and valid points, and worth discussing. In the second comment, I read that in context as, "Since you can't stop internet theft anyway, why get so bent out of shape about it unless you write to get fans?")

What surprised me was that in both cases, the commenters assumed I was not intentionally writing for a large audience. See, that's the thing people keep misunderstanding. I'm not keeping this journal only for myself. I was always writing it so that you would read it. I mean, when "VH in 15 Minutes" came out, I had a carefully nurtured friends list of about 150 people; God bless y'all, but "VH in 15 Minutes" was not written for my 150 "closest" friends. It was written in the hopes that it would be funny and people would like it.

That's the thing about all of my writing, and I think it's something you should take into consideration about yours--ask yourself why you keep the journal you do. I know that a lot of my real-life friends keep journals to keep in touch with each other; they post tidbits about their lives, fun things they saw online, etc., but they'd be a little startled if a stranger showed up and started commenting. I think a lot of people keep public journals for social reasons like that, whether they're open to making new online friends or not. But generally, if someone new to this whole "interweb" contraption puts intensely private thoughts out on the internet and is then shocked and dismayed to realize other people are reading it, what do they do? They lock the entry or take down the journal. What I'm saying is, I think a lot of us write for others more than we realize we do.

Maybe the difference between me and a lot of other diarists, then, is that I started this journal for the purposes of writing about my life for other people; that was the entire purpose. I'm not saying I thought my life was so terribly exciting that it deserved that kind of focus, and of course I'm writing for myself as well, but I write in this journal knowing and hoping that other people may want to read it. I aspire to be a professional writer, and it looks like I may be getting my wish. So that's what I do: I write for other people to read.

And you know what? Sometimes I do write only for myself, and for no one else. And you know what I do when I write only for myself? I don't post where you can read it. If it's only for me, it's under a private filter (or on my hard drive, or in a notebook, for that matter). If it's public, or under a semi-public filter, it's intended for other people to read. And I like knowing other people are going to read what I write about myself, because it forces me to be more honest, because I know you guys would call me out on any bullshit (and, on occasion, have). I think it helps me to become a better person, to see myself sometimes how other people may see me (and then to have the option to not give a shit, if that's what I want). Of course I write for myself in the sense that if I didn't honestly love writing, I wouldn't do it in the first place; if you dumped me on a desert island, I'd still look for palm leaves to start scratching on. But I also get a lot of pleasure from knowing that people enjoy my work; feedback also helps me improve it, and I wouldn't post if I didn't want to improve, either. I forget who said this--it may have been Invisible Girl--but while we may write for ourselves, we post and publish for other people, and there's no getting around that.

In a sense, wanting to publish is also a selfish impulse--I want to make enough money from writing that I can make a living without having to work a second job if at all possible, and that way I'll have more time to write. Because it is something I do for myself, and I know I'm not the only one who would like to make writing a vocation. (And actually, I do agree--I think "VH in 15 Minutes" was funnier because it was looser, and more playful, and not so concerned with duplicating a previous success; I'd like to get back to the feel of that one.) But just because you do something for yourself doesn't mean that you can't do it for other people, too--I think that's what a successful author-reader relationship is based on, that balance. Maybe that balance has gotten a little out of whack lately, and I need to tip it back towards the "writing for myself" end.

At the end of the day, what I'm saying is this: I wouldn't be writing this if I weren't doing it for myself. But you wouldn't be reading it if I weren't also writing it at least partly for you.

P.S. Here's the I-Girl entry I was thinking of.

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