There are only two fundamental reasons for writing anything. It's either therapy or impact.
If you are writing for impact, you are writing primarily for others.
If you are writing for therapy, you are writing primarily for yourself.
Anything written specifically for impact must focus on, and can only be judged by, its intended audience and the impact it had on its intended audience. So if Edgar Rice Burroughs hated a certain Western novel that he wrote, but his motive for writing it was impact (to entertain an audience), and his Western readers loved that novel—well then, it was a good novel. It doesn't matter what ERB himself thought of it. The old saw holds true: The Audience is King.
Anything written specifically for therapy can focus on whatever the author wants to focus on, and it can only be judged by the author who wrote it. If it makes you happy, if it "fulfills you" in any way that you deem valuable, then that work is valuable. It doesn't matter what others think: literary agents or editors or publishers or contest judges or writing instructors or family members or anyone else in the whole world. The old saw holds true here, too: The Audience is King. But in this case, the author is the audience.
The interesting thing is that, despite the very different beginning and end of these opposite motives, they can have a certain crossover effect.
For example, a spoken-word piece written purely for personal cathartic reasons might strike a chord in the people who hear it performed. The writer's motive was "therapy" but that piece also had an impact on others.
The opposite is true, too: one of the authors who will be sharing at Writing to Heal, Neil V. Young, discovered that, when writing short stories for others (his motive was "impact"), if he wrote a really good one that got published and got positive feedback from readers, it was also a story that gave him great personal satisfaction, and helped him figure stuff out about himself. He felt those things BEFORE he submitted that for publication and discovered it also succeeded in its intended impact. His motive was "impact" but certain stories also had therapeutic power in his own life.
And for those of you who have been reading this and muttering under your breath, "it's both, though, I have both of those motives with all my writing!" here's the admission you've been waiting for: Yes. Writers usually take great pleasure in writing things for other people. These two primal motives are often blended in us.
If this works for you, great. Carry on!
But one source of the Resistance we call "writers' block" is conflict or confusion between these two primal motives.
If an expert tells you "write from your heart," and two minutes later says, with equal emphasis, "know your market," and those things seem contradictory, it will help to clarify your primal motive. When one of those is clearly primal, the other is freed up to play an appropriate supportive role.
There is much more to explore here. Where to go next depends on what you're struggling with, and the thoughts and questions that occurred to you as you read this. Leave a comment here and I'll reply, or schedule a free initial consultation to talk it through with one of us.
Or stop by our booth at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, April 23-24! I would love to meet you.