Should I Write for the Self or Share What I Write?

sunanda satwah
5 min readMar 25


Photo by Uday Mittal on Unsplash

You do not get good by wishful thinking. You get good by putting in the (hard) work. If the work is scheduled in advance, tackled routinely and is something you enjoy it need not be hard at all, but a pleasurable pursuit of having something to do that also pays the bills and provides something extra in the cookie jar.

How many hours a person needs to put in the work, or what is the size of the cookie jar (the size of a bank?) is your prerogative.

Work- work that we get paid for is often a trade of our time, labor, and/or expertise in return for monetary remuneration. There are those who make things for pure fun, children for instance and passionate creatives; and they call it a hobby or passion project, where the joy of creation is its own reward. When people begin to trade this joy for monetary rewards, the same experience goes around dressed in work clothes.

It is not necessarily a sad thing.

Converting a passion into tradable work makes one accountable and more aware of their skills, or lack thereof.

When I was little, a few well-meaning friends and neighbors, on seeing my paintings had suggested that I could sell them. I feared that monetizing what I loved to do would somehow taint the art. I may start focusing on the money and creating artworks that brought in the most moolah irrespective of whether I liked that particular style, or not. It may curb my creative freedom and make me doubt my more unconventional outlets. I like unconventional. I also feared that if I traded what I did in my free time for pleasure and relaxation, with actual payable-work, what would I then do for pleasure? It seemed to me that there needed to be a defined Line of Control between, work- which we must do, and hobbies- which bring us joy; a distinct separation between the things that we do for external validation, and those that we do for internal fulfilment. So, I kept these two aspects of my life separate. I kept my paintings and my writings for myself, and exchanged hours spent on construction sites or in the design studio for a monthly salary.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Many years later when I crossed over to academia, my two worlds merged into one, and I found myself teaching drawing, styles of rendering, writing, book reviewing, to students of Architecture. I found myself wanting to explore diverse mediums of illustrating and writing. I was mindful of not transferring my own preferences to the students, and instead wanted to encourage them to explore novel ways of visual and textual expressions.

I learnt more than I taught. For I was only one, but each of the forty students shared with me their unique perspectives. They graciously lent me their lenses- through which they saw the world, and let me have a peek into different ways of seeing and being. Until I reached a point where I found that my existential reality had merged into one river without boundaries. And it was scary!

What earlier had seemed like multiple skills, had all merged into one; and I was not sure if that were a good thing. When you create more, you doubt more. When your work passes through many hands and eyes, you begin to wonder if they are seeing it the way you did, when you created it; and are they seeing what you want to show, or have you unwittingly revealed a part of yourself- for art reveals all. That is the beauty of art- no two people perceive art in the exact same way. What appeals to each one of us in an art piece, is a glimpse of who we are! And indeed, we are many people merged into one. We are constantly borrowing each other’s beliefs, thoughts, fears, concerns, joys, passions. We pick and keep that which most resonates with us and discard that which may be interesting, but does not stick.

However, writing or creating art for public consumption is not quite the same as creating something for personal joy and private archives. I have often noticed that what is created for the self tends to be more raw, powerful, wild. But when I create for sharing, I re-read and edit more, so much so that the outcome becomes diluted. In a bid to write or illustrate a work that would be more acceptable, less revealing, more politically correct, the piece sometimes morphs into a different entity far removed from the original idea, more palatable and careful. But then writing for the self is also easier. Safer. And thus, may never result in growth except for the benefits of journaling. Putting my work out there, is opening myself to public opinion, criticism and possible rejection- through which navigates the road to growth. It isn’t always an easy choice: writing for the self or daring to share it with others.

Photo by Pablo García Saldaña on Unsplash

Writing and drawing, for me — is a process of immersing in an experience that allows me to embrace the self, without any judgements. Creation thus becomes a process of self-exploration.

Today in my journey of paid work vs creative pleasure, I sometimes find myself paralyzed. I write a lot but do not publish enough, wondering- Am I saying anything new? Will this help anyone at all? Or am I just spewing more doubt into the Universe?

May be more people need to know and come to terms with the realization that each one of us is ‘figuring it out’ as we go along. But then isn’t that the most exciting aspect of life? The sheer adventure and uncertainty of it!

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.

-Helen Keller

When it comes to writing, wishful thinking appears something like this…. ‘I wish I could put something out there that is exceptional, radical, life-changing, intense.’ I lie in bed, ruminating.

(Paid) Work these days is often ghost-writing and writings mired in NDAs (Non- Disclosure Agreements).

A merging of the worlds is this article- when I dare to give form to my thoughts and click Publish, despite my doubts.

It took me over two decades to realize that I can fly only if I dare to fall.

Rise up and become the person you were meant to be.

— Dieter F. Uchtdorf



sunanda satwah

Architect, Educator, Writer, Artist, Dreamer…