For the longest time, I assumed the desire to put my own words, photographs, and perspectives out into the universe was largely attached to some faulty area of my ego. A shadowy region that’s been hiding since childhood when it seemed everyone in the world was trying to push me out and shut me up. (In reality, it was mostly one kid, but she was very good at it and managed to convince dozens of my peers to follow suit. Hopefully, she is putting those powers of persuasion to good use as an adult.) If I can write well enough, I argued, people will notice me. My existence will have value. And I will have proven that I belong.
That’s a lot of pressure to put on a personal blog that, let’s face it, has maybe ten readers, six of whom are family (love you guys). There was this unspoken expectation that every post be Great. Sadly, this is no recipe for greatness, rather one for writer’s block, unending Internet silences, and a honed ability to construct roadblocks in order to avoid writing something less than stunning. On the plus side, the house is continually being purged and our vegetables are really clean.
I imagine this is how a lot of creatives feel. Almost ashamed of the desire to succeed. Guilty for wanting to be part of the conversation, or to be the subject of one. After all, isn’t the creation of art supposed to be the penultimate satisfaction regardless of who sees it or cares to pay it notice? We make things that didn’t exist before. That’s supposed to be enough.
Seeing my struggle, and wanting nothing more than to for me to be relieved of this self-imposed burden, Luke asked once whether I could just write a journal instead. Then it wouldn’t matter how good it was because no one would see it.
I almost cringed at the thought. Journals have their place, but what’s the point, I thought, of writing my truth in a book that no one will ever see? I want people to read what I have to say and feel less alone, feel like finally someone out there in the world gets them right where they are in that moment, be it weakness, sadness, fear, maybe even joy (not to be confused with hubris).
So here I am thinking for years that a) I want to become a Somebody and b) that must mean I’m a narcissistic egomaniac. I am conflicted. I still want to be a Somebody, but I don’t want to be a narcissistic egomaniac, so I keep my mouth—and computer—shut. I do not embrace my potential for either radiant success or epic failure, nor do I recognize my own Power to persist, regardless of the outcome. I shut it down and decide my ability to write is best used to put other peoples’ thoughts into print. I swim in this whirlpool, continually analyzing where my weakness of character might lie, until today, when I choose a three-year-old podcast episode to keep me company during the hours of driving I had ahead of me. Liz Gilbert is interviewing Glennon Doyle Melton about her creative process when she asks why it’s important for her to write.
“I think I am just really really desperate to be known,” Doyle says. “I think I just really want to be known. I just want to be seen. Like, I have all of these thoughts and ideas and dreams and fears and for whatever reason I just need people to say, ‘I see you.’ I don’t even need them to say, ‘I like you.’”
This answer initially irks Gilbert, who was hoping Doyle would say it is for nothing more than the personal satisfaction of honouring her inner muse. But Doyle continues.
“It’s such an important thing for women to feel that it’s okay to take up space on this earth and say, ‘Here I am. Look at me for a minute!’”
And so, when I got home and unloaded all the groceries from the car, I didn’t immediately start my hour-long process of washing and storing fresh vegetables. I didn’t go upstairs to switch the laundry, even though it’s been sitting wet in the washer for three hours. I didn’t answer emails, rsvp to umpteen children’s party invites, call my mother or even go read more stuff about Glennon Doyle on the premise of it being “research.” I fed the dog, made a coffee, and sat down to write. Here’s hoping I do it again tomorrow.