Should I write for an audience, or to please myself?

Dear Literary Ladies,
These days, publishers want to know how authors plan to find the audience for their book well before the final draft is submitted. It’s all about marketing and platform, which can be awfully daunting, as well as distracting. Do you think writers should focus on the audience or market as a work is being developed, or does that ultimately make for a less desirable outcome?

Those critics or well-wishers who think that I could have written better than I have are flattering me. Always I have written at the top of my bent at that particular time. It may be that this or that, written five years later or one year earlier, or under different circumstances, might have been better for it. But one writes as the opportunity and the material and the inclination shape themselves. This is certain: I never have written a line except to please myself. I never have written with an eye to what is called the public or the market or the trend or the editor or the reviewer. Good or bad, popular or unpopular, lasting or ephemeral, the words I have put down on paper were the best words I could summon at the time to express the thing I wanted more than anything else to say.

—Edna Ferber, A Peculiar Treasure, 1939

Can I produce good writing with serious time constraints?

A reprise from the early days of the Literary Ladies blog:

Dear Literary Ladies,
I always thought that one needed great swathes of time to get any writing done. Now I hear that some esteemed authors worked in short bursts and still produced an enormous amount of brilliant work. I want to hear from one of you. How did you do it, and what did you do with the rest of your time?

I work from two and a half to three hours a day. I don't hold myself to longer hours; if I did, I wouldn't gain by it. The only reason I write is because it interests me more than any other activity I've ever found. I like riding, going to operas and concerts, travel in the west; but on the whole writing interests me more than anything else. If I made a chore of it, my enthusiasm would die. I make it an adventure every day. I get more entertainment from it than any I could buy, except the privilege of hearing a few great musicians and singers. To listen to them interests me as much as a good morning's work.

For me, the morning is the best time to write. During the other hours of the day I attend to my housekeeping, take walks in Central Park, go to concerts, and see something of my friends. I try to keep myself fit, fresh: one has to be in as good form to write as to sing. When not working, I shut work from my mind.

— Willa Cather, from a 1921 interview

Wouldn't you love to get advice from  classic women authors on writing and the writer's life? Here I fancifully pose the questions, and the Literary Ladies answer in their own words.

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