A prostitute and a diarist

There’s no one asking me to do this. There’s no one paying me to do it. There’s no real reason for me to continue on the path I’m treading. I could stop and the world wouldn’t give a damn. But I keep going. Why?

Because I love it. Because I believe that the act itself is the reward. That just doing it is enough, regardless of the recognition won. That the value gained in the process of creation far outweighs the external rewards I may or may not receive.

But it’s more than that.

There’s this ongoing debate in the creative community, and it’s particularly fierce when it comes to writing. The question fuelling the debate is this: “Should you write for yourself or for your audience?”

Umberto Eco, novelist and professor of semantics, argued for the latter. In On Literature he says

“I have often asked myself: would I still write today if they told me that tomorrow a cosmic catastrophe would destroy the universe, so that no one could read tomorrow what I wrote today?

My first instinct is to reply no. Why write if no one will read me? My second instinct is to say yes, but only because I cherish the desperate hope that, amid the galactic catastrophe, some star might survive, and in the future someone might decipher my signs. In that case writing, even on the eve of the Apocalypse, would still make sense.
One writes only for a reader. Whoever says he writes only for himself is not necessarily lying. It is just that he is frighteningly atheistic. Even from a rigorously secular point of view.

Unhappy and desperate the writer who cannot address a future reader.”

But why can’t it be both? Surely, you can write for yourself and for a reader? Isn’t everything we do, especially the things that we pour our heart and soul into, done to please ourselves and provide value to others?

If I write for myself and myself alone, disregarding my audience, I am not a writer, but a diarist. And if I write solely for my audience, and get no enjoyment or fulfilment from the act itself, then I am not only unhappy, but a prostitute of the craft. 

In fact, it occurs to me that the only way to do something for a long time (which, I suppose, is my ambition) is to do it for yourself and for others. Yes, there will be periods where you stop caring, and periods where they stop caring. But if you’re doing it for yourself and others, you can make it through the storms. By leaning on one when the other fails, you can endure and make it into the promised land. The land in which you and others find incredible value in the work you do.