WRITING TIP: Don’t write for the reader… or for yourself

“If you have learned only how to be a success,” says Thomas Merton, “your life has probably been wasted.” By success, he certainly means the word conventionally, and if you are a writer, that means you have published and sold books, or won a contest, or otherwise been praised or paid for your work. By defining success in this way, writing to find the truth inside, to find the words beneath the chatter that normally consumes us, to find what we most care about and want to say, to get us closer to a reality that makes our ego smaller wouldn’t be defined as successful writing unless it had “market” value. If you want to write in this soulful way, then it’s time to dump conventional wisdom and listen instead to Joy Williams: “The writer doesn’t write for the reader. He doesn’t write for himself, either. He writes to serve … something. Somethingness. The somethingness that is sheltered by the wings of nothingness – those exquisite, enveloping, protecting wings.”