Popularity kills originality. I used to write mostly for myself. As soon as someone started to show the most insignificant interest towards my writings I was gonna try to please the readers, inexplicably. It’s a phenomenon I personally used to find difficult to suppress.
There’s this vicious circle we find ourselves into. When we write, there’s an obvious impulse, a need of being appreciated, read by someone else, for various reasons: feedback, ideas exchange, you name it. But if they start to regularly read your pieces, you’ll develop what psychologists call delusion of grandeur. It doesn’t matter you have only 3-5 guys who frequently browse through your words, because that’s virtually enough. You now have followers. You are the head of the snake. You are the small king of an imaginary kingdom of 5 people.
And when that happens, the quality and the meaning of your works slowly fade away. Because you started to write what they wanted to read, not what YOU wanted them to read. You’ll try as hard as you can to please them, and even if you say “screw it, I write what I want, I don’t care”, it won’t help, because unconsciously you’ll deliver what they want, no matter what. The originality that brought them here in the first place is kind of fucked. And so will be the popularity, as soon as they will figure you changed, even if you changed for them. And they’ll leave.
Originality does not consist in saying what no one has ever said before, but in saying exactly what you think yourself.
– James Stephans
And after all this shit happens, the originality won’t be the single victim. Inspiration will follow soon. After losing the last reader, you’ll get depressed. Not the “I’ll kill myself” kind of depressed, but close (your inner writer killed himself thought, so we’re on the right track). You’ll lose the inspiration. The words will stop pouring. “No one reads me! Who do I even write for!?..”, will sound your whining inner little bitch. You used to write for you, remember?
That’s why I’m telling you: you don’t want to be popular. As a writer, you don’t need to be so. If your words are worth it and you publish them, they will read. That’s not up to you. What is up to you is avoiding feedback. That’s what I do. Good, bad, doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter you won’t improve, for example. By improving you’d be less original anyway. When I publish something and it gets more feedback than usual, I just delete the post. When it comes to writing, it’s best to wear blinders.
Photo: Drew Coffman