Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Writer and Egoism

This past Monday when Daniel Abraham came to talk with us, he asked a couple of us the purpose of our writing. Although, I am not a writer, I was a little surprised when he said he doesn't write for himself. I understand his argument that writing for your own interests in egoistic and that is why he writes for his audience.

However, I think a writer will always put a little of himself in his writings. Even Daniel Abraham said that to write about an emotion, you have to have felt that emotion otherwise it doesn't come across to the reader as the writer intends it to. Then, how can a writer leave his ego out of writing if everything he writes is about the emotions he felt or would theoretically feel in a scenario?

The person that is writing leaves pieces of themselves in their writings since, through what they write, they are expressing their desires and emotions. Therefore, how can a person separate themselves, that is their ego self, from their writings? I don't think it is possible. Ultimately, a witer would want someone to read what they wrote, but that itself is egoistic because it comes down to a desire by a person to have another person read what THEY wrote.

So, did I misunderstand Daniel Abraham when he was talking about his purpose of writing? What do you guys think he meant?


  1. I think he meant what he said when he said that he doesn't write for himself. Writing for an audience is a good thing, I think. But I don't think it's bad to say that you write for yourself. I agree with you that writers put pieces of themselves into their writing.

    ...And I kind of feel like it isn't true when authors say that they don't write for themselves. I can't prove it, but they have to get something out of writing, and that something that they get is for themselves.

    It also depends how we define audience. Can't the author be his or her own audience, or at least a part of the audience, too?

    It was interesting to hear Daniel Abraham speak since he had such a different viewpoint on writing than Kate Horsley.

    1. I agree, and I also think that his stance on "writing for himself" has something to do with his trying to present himself as "Daniel the genius." The impression I got from him was that he believes people who deem themselves "compelled to write" are full of it. No, the urge to put words to paper isn't an inherent aspect of his being--he just really enjoys writing. It's what he wants to do, so that's what he does.

      When he was trying to be "Daniel the genius," he was writing stories more for the sake of convincing important people to tell him how talented he was. They were written to show off his abilities, not to entertain his readers. Some time later he decided that it was more important to show his readers a good time than to present himself as a very serious and contemplative artist, and that's the position he holds today.

      In short, he was talking about letting go of "what a good author!" and instead going after "what a good story!"

  2. I see both of your points. Not all writing is the same because each author has their own particular style, personality, and unique way of phrasing or seeing things. They can't help but inject a little bit of themselves into each word, even unintentionally. On the other hand, sometimes writing does indeed get a "mind of its own." Just the other day, I had to write a story for a Spanish class, and as I was writing it, it got much darker and more depressing than I had planned it to be, and I myself was surprised by the turn of events even as I was typing the words.
    I also would say that an author is probably their own first audience, the one who screens it before it's allowed to be released to someone else to read. I don't think any author willingly likes to publish a piece of work that they don't even enjoy or like themselves. However, Daniel Abraham did bring up that interesting idea of a "performance" in each reader's own mind, that is completely unique from everyone else including (and maybe especially) the author.
    Maybe Kate Horsley had a "need" to express herself, which Daniel Abraham has never felt the need to. Or if he has, has not felt the need to publish such self-expression. (P.S. I don't mean to discredit Ms. Horsley, as I very much enjoyed her work as well.)

  3. I agree with Mr. Abraham's statement that writers who write for themselves can be hard to read, simply because we are not in their heads. I really enjoyed Ms. Horsley's work as well, but the fact that I did came as a bit of a surprise given her purpose in writing it.

    I think what Mr. Abraham meant is that there are writers who write to discover something about themselves that they don't yet understand. The writing becomes a way to delve into and really hash out their perceptions and reactions to events. It's a very self-reflective type of writing, and is perfectly acceptable in a lot of literary circles.

    But what Mr. Abraham does as a genre fiction writer is write a story that turns the mirror on the reader for some of that same self-reflection. The "performance" hypothesis of reading means that it's still a very personal experience to read a story, and he wants us to have that (rather than working through his issues through writing). We as the audience are not trying to parse out what was going on in the author's head as they wrote the story/poem/essay, but instead we get to figure out how we respond to the words they did put down.

  4. I felt that Daniel Abraham meant that when writers are egotistical is when they expect every reader to think that their work is a work of art. As you said I think to write is an emotion and that every writer leaves a little bit of themselves in their work, I feel that if they didn't it would be too fake and hard to take to heart, but with that being said they have to be ready to accept rejections and bad reviews. Like Daniel Abraham said he is a craftsman not an artist. He writes to make a living and he writes what he must depending on opportunity. He has received rejection a myriad of times and he understands that it is entirely part of the process. He writes for the readers, gives them something to enjoy, to read. He writes about his many interests and I feel that in that aspect he puts himself into his writing. His view reminds me of V.B. Prices' view, that the writer should never take credit for his work. Both of their views make perfect sense to me and I understand where they come from.

  5. I agree that I think what Daniel Abraham meant was that no one actually just writes because there is some force compelling them to and that many authors take their work WAY to seriously. Not all writing is or should be considered “art” some of it is just pure fun. I had a hard time when he asked me why I write. The whole time when he was asking everyone else and I knew he was going to ask me I was trying to come up with an answer, but I wasn’t able to and I still haven’t been able to. This really bothers me. Why am I doing this? I enjoy writing a lot, and that is pretty much the only reason I write, so am I being selfish? I feel like there should be a purpose to my writing, other than pleasing myself, but I can’t think of one. I’m hoping that as I develop as a writer, this will become clearer, but for now, I’m just writing because it makes me happy.


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