Monday, 30 January 2012

On Readers, Writing and Macaroons

Every year at Christmas I make macaroons.  Old fashioned ones, not those fancy coloured French things piled like jewels in patisserie shops (and selling for practically the same price as jewels).  Mine are big, chewy things with a crisp exterior and a soft interior, with rice paper on the bottom.  They are damn fine macaroons, even though I say it myself.  

At Christmas the kitchen is scented with almonds and as I prepare yet another batch, occasionally I dream of a macaroon making empire where I will supply the world with my macaroons.  But the reality is that, while I enjoy my cooking stint, if I was preparing macaroons every day the charm would fade fast.  It would become just another job.  

I was thinking about this because someone wrote to me about the difference between writing for oneself alone, and writing for a reader.  To paraphrase, writing for oneself you could do what you liked, but once a reader was involved you had to be aware of them and pay attention to things such as pacing, structure, characterisation and so on - the stuff I teach.  

I agree, up to a point.  But then, what about my macaroons?  I have no intention of ever trying to build even the smallest of macaroon empires, but I strive to make them as good as possible - even if it's just me who is going to scoff the lot (it has been known...).  I think we can write just for ourselves, and yet also want our writing to be as good as it possibly can be, even if we're not intending to show it to anyone else.  

So, no macaroon empire for me, but I still enjoy the making and the baking and the satisfaction of doing a good job.  Even if we have no intention of ever showing our work to anyone I think we can try to learn to be the best writer we can be.  Apart from anything else, the journey is such fun.  


Philip C James said...

How true, Sarah.

I write my micropoetry to please myself. Am occasionally pleasantly surprised to find anyone else likes a piece.

With my novel I'm hoping I'll have the reader more in mind. That way, I trust it will be good enough to stand up there with the professionals as well as give me pleasure.

Here's to your next novel selling like hot cakes...

Jan Brigden said...

I love your blog, Sarah. It's always so interesting, informative & thought provoking. So helpful too, using examples such as this macaroons tale to highlight and strengthen the message you're trying to get across.

Sarah Duncan said...

Phil - I think it's great that you can make the distinction between the different types of writing and your different ambitions for them.

Jan - Many thanks for the nice words!