In online publishing there is an oft repeated mantra about writing for your readers. While it is true that you should write for your readers rather than search engines, there is a gaping hole in the advice. When you face the blank page to tell your story, the last thing you need is an audience, even when the audience is only in your head.
Even the most experienced writer often faces the nasty inner critic, who shows up to heckle and deter you from your writing process. If you allow readers into the room you can guarantee that at least one of them will be a critic. In his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft , author Stephen King advises that you tell the story to yourself first. It is advice that helped me get my first novel onto paper. I had to shut the door and lock out the readers, and the critics in order to first tell the story.
Writing is one of the few tasks in which focusing on the end result can hinder rather than help. You cannot sit down to write a New York Times bestseller or a viral blog post. Initially it is you and the story, whatever that story may be. When you have told the story then you allow the readers to help you refine and polish it.
Writing without an audience can yield surprising results. You may discover stories or storytelling elements that never would have blossomed without creative freedom.
Whether or not you are a writer, we all have to write – reports, presentations, correspondence – and we have all faced the critic that makes us anxious about the end result. How would you apply King’s advice in your writing? Would it ease the task of writing if you did it without thought about the end result?