There are those who say you should write for yourself, and there are those who say you should know your audience well and write for them. I say following any pat formula is the quickest path to failure.
The question is not so simple. Reality is not as binary as self vs. others. The question cannot even take into account what kind of work you’re creating when you write: fiction? articles? tutorials? opinion?
But examining your own motivations is healthy, so let’s see where this goes.
If you’re not writing for yourself, you won’t be happy. If you seek to make an audience happy but not yourself, you’ll be worse than unhappy: you’ll be miserable.
Writing for yourself and writing for an audience are not mutually exclusive, because they don’t stem from the same motivations. Writing for yourself, the very wording of that phrase, is partly to blame, here. The wording implies you are writing something that you care about but which other people do not. It implies self-indulgence and selfishness.
I think it’s more accurate to say writing for yourself means you’re writing because you feel driven to. Writing for yourself means you write because it makes you happy. Because you’re writing something that has to come out or you’re writing something that yourself would want to see in a bookstore. The kind of book you’d see on the shelf and be drawn to. Want to pick it up and admire the cool title, the amazing cover art. The kind you know you’ll be walking out with after having read the first several chapters in the coffee shop.
If you write for yourself and you have any real skill in it, others will like it, too. And it’s not that you don’t care about your audience, it’s that you’re not writing to a market.
Writing for an audience is a tricky, slippery thing, as well. If you’re new to blogging, do you even have an audience? For whom, then, are you writing? You’re writing for the audience you want, not the audience you have. Paradoxically, you get the audience you want by writing for yourself.
But not keeping it to yourself.
If you’re feeling frustrated already just reading this, I’m sorry, but you’ll have to get used to it. The writing life is full of paradoxes and contradictions.
So… do you write for yourself, or do you write for an audience?
The answer is: yes.