Write as if No One is Reading

People don’t ask, “How’s the writing going?” the way they used to.  They probably know.  It’s been too long since I put fingers to keyboard for any sustained amount of time.

The advice we’re given is “treat writing like a job.”  In other words, show up, sit down and write.  That was easy for me to do when I was writing the manuscript now gathering dust on my bookshelf.  Three years ago, as I dived into research about World War II, the contributions of civilian women during wartime and Japanese internment camps, it was easy to set the alarm at five.  I was on a mission to complete a full-length novel.  Eighty-eight thousand words later the job was done.

I just don’t know if I’m on a mission any more.

I haven’t lost my love, only my drive.  Or maybe it’s not my drive.  Maybe it’s my vision – I can no longer see in my mind’s eye the writer I wanted to be in 2008.  The writer who craved commercial success has disappeared.

An old friend said to me last night, “Of course you’re not writing – these days you’re too busy living.” And then a few hours later a new friend said, “Write as if no one is reading.”  When I began to study the craft of writing that was my focus – writing for the potential reader with the conviction that one day the President of the United States would put a hardcover copy of my best seller in his summer vacation carry-on.  And now?  I think it’s time to begin writing for me – to color outside the lines a bit or maybe allow the flow of words to lead me down an unexpected path.

(Why does that make me feel uncomfortable?  What would happen if I did that?  What would I discover?)

With the counsel of those friends still sitting warmly in my heart I’m going to embark on a new writer’s path.  No matter what I read in all the “how to write” books I am not going to treat writing like a job.  The writing that I want to produce – the writing that nurtures or challenges or pulls at you – that  writing is not a job.

And so the dozen half-written essays on my desktop, the few short stories I began but never finished and the unfinished novel languishing in an electronic file – they’re all going to wait a while longer.  I’ve got to go live a little and then write about it as though no one is reading.

5 thoughts on “Write as if No One is Reading

  1. In the midst of writing an introduction to my first blog, I found your post and the words “write as if no one is reading” rang so true for me and my initial intention for my blog, which is to just write for myself again. Not as a job, not because I have to, but because I want to. Good luck in your writing and remember, the hardest part of writing is sitting down. Maybe we should try standing…


  2. I once read in a biography of Gorgia O’Keef that toward the end of her life she learned to trust her moods. Now that I am getting up there in years myself I increasingly find that thought has the ring of truth.


  3. I can’t remember the exact quote or of whom it was actually said –
    “His sins were scarlet but his books were read”
    It seems to me that it’s not the writing that’s a problem – it’s getting someone to read it – even this blogging has the same problem, has it not?
    I know what you mean.
    If no-one reads it is it writing? Like that parable about the falling tree in the uninhabited forest.


    • Of course it’s writing. It’s our writing. And whether or not it is read has no bearing on its beauty.

      I used to obsess about blog stats – during those days when I was convinced I was on the cusp of being something great.

      But at the end of the day I’m a simple woman who connects to her heart through creativity – if it isn’t writing then it’s painting or music.

      The point, I guess, that I was trying to make is that when we write as though no one is going to read the words we put down, it gives us permission to step over the edge. To be daring and vulnerable. At least that is what my friend is encouraging me to do.


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