It’s Okay to Write for Yourself

I sing a lot. I sing in the typical places—my car, the shower, my kitchen. Most of the time no one hears me sing; those who do tend to be members of my family, and one of them is likely to ask me to stop singing. They are not even polite about it but, to be fair, I should add that my singing voice can be grating. Yet the reviews have not always been a disaster. Although my choir auditions bombed in both grade school and junior high, by high school somehow my voice had become minimally acceptable, and for three years I was a bonafide alto. Ever since then, it’s been back to my car, the shower, my kitchen and a trio of daughters wailing, “Mom, stop!” Fortunately, they now live in their own homes and I get to sing for the simple reason that I enjoy singing. People who enjoy singing get to sing, just as people who enjoy painting get to paint.

Do you enjoy writing? Then you get to write. Writing is something I know from the other end of the talent spectrum. I’ve always had a gift for writing, and then I added degrees and professional experience, so I’m pretty good at writing. When I read other people’s writing, it can be a little like a bad singing voice shattering my ears or a poorly painted picture assaulting my field of vision—but it rarely strikes me that way. Usually I hear passion in the words and authors’ urgency in sharing their thoughts. I can ignore the missing apostrophes, run-on sentences and weirdly used semicolons. I can overlook the favorite word that gets repeated and repeated and the paragraph that really belongs on the previous page. But it doesn’t matter what I think unless the writer asks for my input.

Have you kept a diary or journal that you’ve revealed to not a single other person? You may have written a full memoir that you have no intention of publishing, preferring to keep it in its original notebook or computer file. Or maybe you do take it out of hiding occasionally to show to a spouse or trusted friend. Perhaps you’ve broken off a chapter that stands alone and submitted it somewhere as a short story. But if all you do is reread your own work, your writing is worthwhile. If all you do is write out your thoughts and never bother reviewing them once you’ve had your say—just to yourself—that’s also fine. The writing process is cathartic and creative and endlessly revealing of who you are, and who you are is someone who enjoys writing, so you get to write.