We covered a bit about writing “rules” and I want to go back over that some more with you today.
One of my favorite rules to break is from Stephen King. As a fellow horror and suspense author, I listen to what others in my genre have to say. One thing King has repeated time and again is to “write with the door closed, edit with the door open.”
Basically, what he means by this is that you should write your story for you. Ignore everyone else and just write your story. Don’t worry what your readers may think, or an agent, or a publisher or even an editor.
When you are finished with your story, then you open the door and let others partake. You make edits based on feedback and suggestions and go from there.
On the surface, it is sound advice. But, I don’t like it.
When you look deeper, it is a bit selfish
Yes, it is true, you should write for you. It should make you happy and you shouldn’t listen to those that say you are wasting your time or that you aren’t good enough.
It is also true that I tell you to write for a single person. Ignore the masses and the large groups. Because, as King implies, you can’t please everyone.
If, however, you are only writing to please yourself, you may as well open a pint of ice cream and put on your favorite movie. It is much less stressful, easier on you and accomplishes the same thing.
We write because we want to share our stories. We want other people to read them and love them. As much as we want to write for ourselves, we want that recognition and admiration just as much. We understand we can’t please everyone, but we want to please someone.
That reinforcement gives us the power to continue, to push through the tough editing stage, to finish that second draft. What King fails to realize (or maybe remember) is that when you toil away and only write for you then emerge with a finished product, it can be detrimental.
Let’s just assume you do that. You don’t share a thing and sit in quiet, by yourself and write your book. When you come out and show it around, no one likes it. How hard is that going to hit you?
I know that for me, if I spent several months to years working on a project only to discover after that time that no one liked it, I would be crushed. Mentally, emotionally. I would die inside and I would probably give up writing for good.
But, on the other hand, if I shared my progress with a few (or even several) and got feedback, encouragement, support, along the way? It wouldn’t hit as hard.
Which brings us (finally) to today’s writing prompt. Let’s take a look.
Create a new nursery rhyme to read to a child before bed time.
The task itself is menial. Nursery rhymes aren’t that difficult. But it is a quick way to showcase the point I am trying to make.
If I told you to lock yourself in your office or bedroom, or wherever it is you do your writing, and just write a nursery rhyme, you would do so. Then move on.
But writing one that you are going to read to a child tonight adds a bit of complication. Now you have to write thinking about that child. If the kid doesn’t like dragons, for example, you can’t put one in your poem.
If they like cars and fire trucks or princesses, then those things better be in there.
Writing with someone else in mind does a few things to your writing habits.
First, it puts the pressure on for you to perform. And like it or not, we all tend to write a little better when there is pressure.
Second, it gives us a purpose. We are no longer writing for just ourselves. This allows you to not just write words, but to do so with a goal in mind, a person in mind and you can use your talents to make someone else happy.
I call this writing with power, and for me, it is much better than writing alone, in a dark room with the door closed hoping to please myself. I want to please others with my words. That’s why I am a writer. You probably are, too.
So get your nursery rhyme written, read it to a child and get their reaction. Then post the rhyme and the reaction in the comment section below.