Upon the urging of several friends, I recently read this blog post by Seth Adam Smith: Marriage Isn't For You.
Despite the provocative title, it's actually a very romantic look at marriage from a different perspective. The author argues that marriage is about wanting to make the other person happy, rather than thinking about what you can get out of it.
After I read the blog post (which I agree with wholeheartedly), I got to thinking about how much this applies to writing, too. There's a tendency amongst writers (aspiring ones, anyway) to focus on how writing makes them feel.
Sure, writing can be fun. It can also be exasperating, cathartic, joyful, hilarious, heart-wrenching, and infuriating. But to some extent, this is missing the point.
Writing isn't for you. It's for the reader.
That might seem fairly obvious, but it immediately hit home with me. How many times have we heard phrases like "kill your darlings," or been told by critique partners, agents, and editors to change things we loved? The truth is, they are assuming the point of view of the reader. You are the writer, and no matter how good you are at putting your manuscript aside and coming back to it with a fresh perspective, there will always be things you want to keep because they were fun to write, because they have personal meaning for you, because you think it's a particularly good turn of phrase.
In the future, I'm going to try to keep this idea in mind. Writing is for the reader. If a reader who understands the genre and the mechanics of writing doesn't think something should stay, I'm going to try to curb my knee-jerk reaction (What? But I love that part!) and look at it more objectively. If it interferes with the reader's understanding or enjoyment of the book, then out it goes.
I think keeping the end goal in mind will help me accept legitimate criticism, and therefore be a better writer.