You’re The Customer

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Over at his blog, Serdar discusses how people figure out what to write.  Exploring what we want to write creates more satisfying works for the audience and the writer.  It’s not always a comfortable process, and I’d like to increase the discomfort.

Who decides the value of your writing career?  That’s important to know since you need to target your writing and efforts towards that person or people.  You can read books and take training on determining customer value (I could probably dig some up for you as that’s part of Agile).  Difficult question, right?

I’ll give you the answer – the person who decides the value of your writing career is you.  Your first customer is you.

That’s not a twee answer.  You’re the one putting your time, life, and money into writing and you should get what you want from the effort.  If you’re not getting it, you should change how and what you’re writing.

Too many people get into writing with a set of vague ideas, goals, and motivations.  This gets you going but isn’t always enough to complete a work, and not enough to keep going.  Too many writers I know have a vague sense of goals, but not enough to bring their writing career to life.

I can understand why people have these ephemeral senses of what they want because self-exploration is painful.  We discover flaws in our character, gaps in our skill, and unpleasant truths we’ve avoided up to now.  If you think asking “what do I want out of writing?” sounds like therapy, I can tell you sometimes it can be awful close.

Asking this question also opens the terrifying possibility that we shouldn’t be writing.  But it’s better to find out that’s the case than wasting time on something that you get nothing out of.  Take comfort though, I doubt you’d be reading this if you didn’t have some real reason to write.

My own motivations varied throughout my career until I realized I’m motivated by writing and sharing knowledge and experience.  I like to reach people – which I do via writing but also speaking and hanging with fellow writers.  I could have saved myself a lot of time if I’d realized that first.

So go talk to some fellow writers.  Talk to a therapist.  Talk to me. Spend some time driving and get to know yourself as a writer.  It’ll be worth it (and you’ll be better at writing).

Steven Savage