There is an inevitable intersection between the writer’s journey and their life outside of writing. This is certainly true in my own life. In fact, peeling back the layers of who I am outside of this virtual world reveals that “The Giver” is not just the title of a favorite novel I read as a child. It is a label that describes such a big part of my personality. Among the various things that I gave, I often chose one of my most valuable possessions: my time. And to no surprise, it was almost always offered in the form of words.
Advice, empathic comfort, and writing assistance were often requested. And I delivered. In just about every instance, I was not thinking about my personal benefit; the joy of helping others was my reward. Most people would consider that admirable. And perhaps it is. However, I noticed that the grand majority of the recipients were takers.
Here is the thing with takers: their wells are bottomless. They will take and take and take without flinching and before you know it, your own wells are dry. Most are well-intentioned. Others are unforgivable. But in either case, you feel weak with little energy left in your spirit, sometimes even in your bones. Couple this with a sensitive heart that hates disappointing others and you feel guilty for even thinking of keeping your distance. But I knew it was necessary, not because I was bitter, but because my energies were being depleted by their inability to see my humanity.
To these people, I was the phone call but never the person that was called. I was the words of encouragement but never the one who spoke them. And my honest to God fear of growing this online space is that, to some people, I become a “resource” or a collection of online essays but never the living, breathing writer behind them.
I am not sure how this fear will evolve as this space does. Perhaps it will fade with time. At worst, it will be a small, irritating itch that I will have to deal with. Those of you reading might have dealt with this fear at some point. Maybe you are there right now. Or perhaps you have other fears. Whatever the case may be, there are a few questions worth considering when we run into the inevitable fear that comes with writing:
Do you love what you do?
Does your work bring you joy?
When you read what you have created, are you proud of yourself and the effort that you put into cultivating your art?
While I often discuss writing as an act of service, I do not believe that it means that the writer is a doormat. With the inevitable frustrations that comes with creating intentionally, it is important that your work is also written with yourself in mind.
It can be discouraging to get lost in a sea of how-to’s while satisfaction in your own writing is lacking. That is the last place any writer should be in. In such a position, the writer is giving while they are on empty. Writing and blogging become burdens and every single ounce of their energy is put in pleasing their readers. Honestly, that sounds like nightmare. We cannot afford to let external affirmation be the sole inspiration behind our work. We must enjoy what we do. We must write for ourselves.
For me, writing for myself means having a section of personal essays on the same blog I use to encourage and equip writers to improve their craft. It is consistent with my belief that the writer and their life outside of writing are intertwined with one another. Writing for myself means journaling, creating stories outside of my blog, and writing essays that stay in my drafts indefinitely. It demonstrates that there are parts of myself that are sacred, and it is ultimately in my power to determine what stays concealed and what is brought to the light. Writing for myself also means that my more instructional posts are not solely written as lists of do’s and don’ts. If writing is both an art and a science, then my how to’s must make my audience feel. If I am to stimulate one’s mind, I must touch their heart in the process. Those of you who read my writing tips know that there is storytelling involved. There is also personal revelation. This isn’t a “blogging strategy” for me. This is me being myself. To do otherwise would inauthentic (not to mention a miserable creating experience).
Reflecting upon what writing for myself means to me really does change things for the better. Perhaps that is what I needed all along: a shift in perspective. When people read my work online, I no longer fear that some will reduce who I am to pixels on a screen. I understand that some fears are seasonal, alternating between leaving and coming back. Who knows? This could be one of those fears. However, I am living in the present. And presently that fear is gone.
I want to use this moment to encourage those who feel like their work is being valued more than who they are as a creator. Please know this: you are not a thing to be a consumed. You are not an on-demand court jester meant to entertain the masses on command. It is completely okay to use your writing as an oxygen mask, making sure your words heal you first before they reach the hands and screens of your audience. In fact, I recommend it. Relish in your creation. Be proud of your work and sprinkle your ethos, personality, and writing style all over what you do.