Self Indulgence is the ultimate sin of a writer. I found this recently and thought it was an equally irresponsible line to put in a book beginning writers might be using for guidance. I indulge myself every time I sit down to write. I am embedded in every one of my characters. They think a lot of the things I think. In Courting Her, Alex drinks the same coffee I drink. Alex is different from me in numerous ways, but not in how we drink coffee! When I go back through my old fiction, I love that it reflects who I was then and who I am now. It is extremely self-indulgent, but that doesn’t necessarily make it bad fiction. Writers who force details about themselves in at the expense of their fiction are self-indulgent to a fault. Writers who are self-indulgent are just writers. Only the writer can decide where that line is. A reader is welcome to make that decision, as well, and stop reading, but that’s where personal taste comes into play. A writer who loves food might describe tastes and smells for pages every time characters sit down to eat. A reader who only eats when hungry and otherwise never thinks about food might find this self-indulgent. A reader who also loves food might read everything this author writes for the food descriptions that happen to lead to a story. No one is wrong here.
To make a statement like the one above is, at best, a useless generalization, and, at worst, an arrogant dismissal of the creative energy new writers bring to the act of writing. I am still writing today, after over ten years, largely because I found advice to counter the above like this from Kurt Vonnegut Jr., a writing instructor as well as popular writer: “There’s little I can do but tell people to read a lot and write a lot and figure it out for themselves”