Write Like No One’s Reading

When we write something, we hope that those we share it with will receive it positively. If we choose to share it in the first place, that is. More often than not, it takes a lot of convincing to get writers (myself included) to share our work with someone else, frequently because we’re scared of what they’ll think. We dream of others loving our work, but don’t know if that will be the reality. Sometimes, this prompts us to want to write what’s popular, follow the current trends, or copy what’s currently popular. Or it could simply mean we try and please every reader by applying every single suggestion we receive about an idea—even when we know that’s not how the story should be. While taking feedback into consideration is great, becoming a people-pleasing writer isn’t—especially for a first draft.

It’s great (and needed) to listen to the opinions and responses of others in order to polish your work and make it more marketable to a larger audience. However, for a first draft, taking into consideration market trends and what others might think about the story might actually become a huge block to your word generation. If you’re trying to write for someone else or an audience other than you, it’ll inhibit your writing. You’ve become a people-pleasing author. Instead, you have to write like no one’s reading.

A personal example is my experience writing Our Company of Fools and its potential sequel. Our Company of Fools was a book that, from the start, I wasn’t sure if I’d share with others. I just knew I had to write it for myself, partially as a way to deal with the loss of something I held dear. After I pumped out the initial draft and made some initial revisions, I decided to share it with an audience. Since then, I’ve been able to edit it further and further to make it a stronger story based on others’ feedback. By writing Our Company of Fools for myself first, not only was I able to write it quickly, I’m also now able to distinguish between what I absolutely need in the story and what advice from others I should apply to improve the story.

On the other hand, its intended sequel became an attempt to make a more market-focused version of the story. I was so focused on how others might like or dislike the sequel that I forgot to write the story for myself first. As a result, the initial draft is sloppy, took a long time to finally finish a completed draft, and isn’t usable for future edits. I don’t love the finished story. If I do end up pursuing a sequel for Our Company of Fools in the future, I will not use that draft.

We encounter writing blocks when we focus too much on the opinions of others. If you want to push through and complete a first draft, you have to write a story for yourself and stop thinking about what others will think. So let’s all commit to writing like no one’s reading!