Is It Okay to Write for Ourselves as Our Only Readers?

Photo by Gene Bakner on Unsplash

For the past few days I’ve been pondering this question- Is it okay to write for ourselves as our only readers? I’ve been weighing my thoughts on it, considering my own experiences.  And the truth is that I think the answer is YES and NO.

Why Yes

Let’s start with the YES.  Of course it’s okay for us to journal, to jot down thoughts, to work through something with words. Of course it’s okay for us to have things we write just because we need to write them, just because we need to understand something even if we never have the intention of sharing it with anyone but ourselves.  Of course that’s okay.  I feel like that’s obvious, right?

Why No

However, when we write things with the idea of other people as readers, when we imagine them, when we think about what they might say, when we consider an audience – even in the most minor way – I think the answer to this question is a hard NO.  Here’s why – when we write something with other people in mind but then claim it really was for just us, we are lying to ourselves because we are afraid. 

We are afraid of what people will say. We are afraid people won’t say anything. We are afraid that we’ll be found to be incorrect or misguided. We are afraid people won’t like us. We are afraid that our vulnerabilities will be exploited. We are afraid.

Fear Is Not Our Friend

Fear, my friends, is an enemy of the writer.  All writing for readers requires risk. All of it opens us up to critique or disapproval or – my worst fear – apathy. All of it makes us vulnerable.  That’s part of it’s gift.

So when we cater to fear, when we pull back from a hard position because we know we’ll meet opposition, when we decide not to write something because we know people might disapprove, when we write our hearts and then hide them away, we are stifling our creativity and, ultimately, silencing ourselves.  A silent writer serves no one, not even herself. 

Be Brave

Everyone has their own way to courage, so please do what you need to do to write bravely about what’s on your heart in the world. But if it helps, here are a few things I do:

  • I weigh my heart before I publish. Am I ready for pushback? Can I handle silence? Can I be kind if someone critiques even the most personal things in my writing? If the answer to any of these is no, then I write what I have to say, and then I put it away until I am ready.
  • I remind myself that I am not my writing. I am valued because I am beloved, not because of anything I produce or anything I say. When I keep my value centered in the right place, it’s easier to be brave.
  • Finally, I remember the ways my words have helped other people. I keep a quiet file of notes, reviews, and kind words that people have sent me about my writing. It’s a gentle way of helping me be courageous and keep the inevitable critique and (rare) attack in perspective.

I encourage each of you to be as brave as you can with your words.  Take the risk when you’re ready. We need what you have to say. We really do.

Has fear ever held you back in sharing your work? Were you able to overcome it? If so, how did you do it?