How To Write For Yourself

Or, how to rediscover a lost art

You hate writing.

Well, actually, that’s not right — you used to love writing, but somewhere along the line, the joy has been sucked out of it. You have to force yourself to open up the laptop each morning and start typing up something new.

You’re not alone in this feeling. At some point, writers from every field — freelancers, best-selling authors, mommy bloggers — experience this feeling. It’s not that you suddenly hate writing, it’s that you’ve forgotten how to write for yourself.

What is “writing for myself”?

Most writers started writing long before they made money for it. Maybe you started scribbling down fictional stories when you were a kid or filled up your diary as a teenager.

This kind of writing wasn’t for anybody else but yourself. You didn’t write for a client, you didn’t write to impress anybody — it was just for your own enjoyment.

Although some authors might argue that writing is meant to be shared with the world, I’m a firm believer that writing, at its core, is for you. It’s a creative outlet, a way to cope with our emotions, a fun past time — we can share our words with the world, but the goal isn’t to write for them.

Obviously, as we get older, we do have to write for others — and that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with writing for your followers, or for a client, but a problem arises when you only write for the world and stop writing for yourself.

That’s when you begin to experience the dread of writing — not only do you begin to loathe it, but your work starts to lack the passion and sincerity it once had.

The good news is that the art of writing for yourself isn’t lost — you simply have to remember how to do it.

Step 1: unplug yourself from your commitments

The first step in writing for yourself is taking the time to do so. If you can’t take a day off work (or just have too much to do on those off-days), I recommend using the mornings or late night to write for yourself. These are usually times when you’re more reflective anyway — either because you’ve just woken up with a fresh outlook, or you’re tired from a long day.

It’s also a good idea to find a quiet, distraction-free place to write. It can be difficult to think if your kids are yelling in the background, or your spouse has the TV blaring.

This “quiet, distraction-free” place looks different for everybody — it might be a coffee shop, your patio, a library or the woods. What matters is that you’ll be alone with your thoughts.

Step 2: Examine yourself

Even if you don’t realize it, there’s probably something you need to get off your chest. Maybe you’re feeling frustrated over something that happened at work, or you just feel like your anxiety is consuming you.

You don’t have to keep your emotions bundled up inside — you can set them free by typing them out. There will always be points in our lives when we feel terrified, betrayed, angry, or lonely, and even if we don’t currently feel that way, we can carry these experiences with us like a heavy burden. But writing about difficult times can bring clarity and closure.

You could also write about a current situation that you’re going through. You might not know what to think or how to feel, but writing it all down can be a way for you to organize your thoughts.

Don’t be afraid to examine the darker parts of yourself. Maybe you have a terrible habit that nobody else knows about, or you lied to someone you care about. Oftentimes, we try to forget our “dark side” exists, but writing about is a way for you to “call yourself out” on unacceptable behavior. (Or, it might also be a way for you to accept and let go of guilt.)

Step 3: Write about someone else

You might be thinking, “But I thought this was about me? How does talking about someone else help me write for myself?”

There’s really only so much self-examination we can do. Once you’ve got it all off your chest, you might reach an impasse — or start to feel bored.

As therapeutic as it can be to write about yourself, it can also limit your creativity. Your writing is confined to your own experiences and perspective, and that can become repetitive.

This is why it can be just as helpful to write about a fictional character. They could be anybody from anywhere — a princess, an alien, a soldier, a detective. Creative writing will activate your lost imagination, and even help you understand a new perspective on life. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece or a best-seller — you have nobody to impress but yourself.

Step 4: Apply it to the rest of your life

So, you did it. You wrote about your fear of spiders until you got bored, and then began concocting a plot about a detective who catches every criminal except for the one who killed his wife.

What now?

What do you do once you feel like you’ve rediscovered the art of writing for yourself? Better yet, how do you stop yourself from forgetting it again?

There are two answers: first of all, you shouldn’t just do it once. Writing for yourself is like a prescription — take as needed. You might feel like doing it daily, or once a week, or maybe once a month. It’ll always be there for you to pick up again.

Secondly, writing for yourself can actually be applied to your other work. For instance, consider your blog on Medium. There’s nothing wrong with writing for the audience’s enjoyment (in fact, I think you should), but creating content that’s sincere and passionate will resonate with people. You can write for the audience while still talking about things that matter to you. Why should people read a blog post you wrote about a topic you don’t care about?

Although, it might be hard to apply the concept of writing for yourself to some work. If you’re writing articles about construction pants for a client, there isn’t much room for creativity. You might be able to add your own style or panache to spice it up, but that’s it.

It’s okay to recognize that there’s a place for writing for yourself, but also a time when you need to write for the audience. Some of your writing might be worth sharing with the world, but some of it might not be. What matters is that it’s for you, and you don’t need to impress anyone.

When I’m not writing, you can usually find me hanging out with my cats.

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