I’m always surprised when someone tells me they enjoy my writing. I think I’m a good writer–at least I hope I am. But mostly, I write stories that entertain me, and I have low expectations that my work will make me rich or change the world. If someone else other than me is entertained or moved in some way, that makes me happy.
It’s a cliche to say to write for yourself–that sentiment is told frequently, usually as advice to first-time writers. It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that if you entertain yourself, then other people will enjoy it as well. Mostly, that’s hogwash because you can entertain yourself with the worst writing in the world and it’ll have exactly one fan.
Many writers have figured out long ago that to be truly successful as a writer, you need to brand yourself and write in the same genre with similar types of plots and characters. Agatha Christie is known for her murder mysteries, Tom Clancy for his techno-thrillers, Michael Crichton for his science-y adventures, Stephanie Meyer for her teen horror-romances. By branding yourself, you are telling your audience what to expect from one book to the next and building a business out of your craft.
Honestly, I don’t know if I can do that–it seems too much like work. Plus, I have all sorts of different kinds of stories that I write, so it would be hard for me to narrow my scope down to one brand. Perhaps that will prevent me from being a huge success, but hopefully my writing will stand on its own regardless.
When I look at the accomplishments in my life, I realize that the one unifying factor in everything I’ve done is to make people happy or improve the lives of others. This is true in my current job as Programming Director for Pensacon; when I hear random strangers talk about how much they enjoy the convention and look forward to it each year, it gives me that proverbial warm and fuzzy. It’s also true in the film and video productions I make, though those also subscribe to the approach I take with my writing, in that I produce what I find entertaining and hope others share my taste. I have also been an educator and have volunteered many years of my life in various non-profits, all of which have been for the benefit of others (not to say that I didn’t get something out of it as well).
I enjoy brightening up the lives of others, whether it’s through entertainment, education, or experiences that they otherwise would not have had. Will I succeed in branding myself as a writer or filmmaker? I haven’t so far, but I still like to think that my small contributions to society have had a little impact on others–hopefully positive ones.