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Self-examination vs Self-indulgence

Self-examination is brutally honest. Self-indulgence is brutally maudlin.

Writing requires the author to be harshly candid about motive, intent, and goal, which, of course, mean self-examination. On the other hand, a lack of sincerity becomes self-indulgence, which is self-pitying.

Writers must know why they are writing, their motive. Is it for money, acclaim, or self-satisfaction? Is it to inform, entertain, or convince the reader? Is it to fulfill a desire to titillate, deceive, or subvert the reader? The author must be sincere when he or she considers the desire.

Generally speaking, writers have more than one goal as they compose. In today's world where non-fiction makes up the greatest percentage of writing, the motive is to inform or convince with the secondary motive being financial. Most authors want to be published to acquire financial assets or to become wealthy, but the first consideration is to have something to say that is relevant to the intended readership. Fiction writers often write for a need to express themselves and to entertain while poets put forth their passion to amuse, to beguile, to foment, to excite, and to purge. All writers, therefore, must establish their motive and be conscientious.

Thus writers have three goals--to inform, to entertain, and to convince. In this world of information overload, the writer has an important role because dissemination of information is, for the most part, achieved through the written word, even in television. Before the pictures, comes the text and writers generate this although they often work behind the scenes.

Entertainment is accomplished through the eyes, the ears, and other senses, but, again, before this happens, the writer is the primary source of the ideas that become articles, books, movies, or television programs. Last but not least, is the motive to convince, and again the writer is responsible for this. Advertising, political campaigning, religion--all want to persuade the reader, audience, spectators, and listeners that it to their advantage to accept what is offered. Behind the scene, again, is the writer.

Thus, the writer must submit to self-examination with candor and intensity to be sure that motives are fulfilling, not just self-gratifying. If it is self-indulgence then it is effusively sentimental, lacking in substance and fidelity-the dedicated writer's anathema.

Charles Goulet has a BA in history and BEd in English literature. He has several historical novels published.

Charles O. Goulet
RR 1
Evansburg, AB
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