I recently rediscovered that the world had gone mad. That realization dawned on me mid-scroll through the comments section on a Facebook article. The comment: “Ed Sheeran’s music is crap.” I reread the comment, (mentally) picked on the commentator’s face, cooed at an imaginary Ed Sheeran, “Oh, Ed, musical genius, what do these people even know!” and then waited for the sinking reality.
The sinking reality: Not everyone will like what you do. And there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it.
Once I sobered up and tried to put some water into my half-empty glass, the sinking reality didn’t look as dim. It had an oddly liberating aspect to it as well: If I can’t please everyone, then I should at least please myself.
And finally, the writing tip I came across some months ago on Pinterest no less, thinking, “Well, duh! That’s obvious,” made sense to me. The “knowledge” which I dismissed and stored somewhere inside my brain, transformed into a golden nugget of wisdom. “Write the stuff you want to read.”
With my tendency to overcomplicate things, this golden nugget of wisdom then felt way too hard to sink my teeth into. My mind would become flooded with thoughts just when I geared myself to write the stuff I wanted to read. “What if the stuff I want to write is something nobody else wants to read?” “What if I spend so much time writing what I want to read only to have it thrown back in my face with a huge stamp of failure across it?” “What if I want to read many, many things, and can’t decide what I want to write about?”
But behind that anxiety, behind that fear of failure and rejection, lies the knowing. I do know what I want to write about. Because it’s the very same thing I find myself looking for in the stories I choose to read. It’s the very same thing I long for when I don’t find it in the stories I read. It’s the very same thing that makes excitement course through my veins and inspiration dance through every cell in my body.
It’s so easy to let the expectations of the world, the voices on the outside drown out the stories your heart wishes to tell. Because a large part of being a “successful” writer is dependent on the readers, the audience with varied tastes and preferences, there is an urge to want to please them all as a huge, “Thank you for taking the time to read my writing.”
But when the heart isn’t fully into it, isn’t fully committed to the writing, the pages leak with a kind of inauthenticity felt by the discerning reader. That’s when the very act of writing becomes a daily task, a chore, a laboured pain of stringing together words, ideas, and perceptions you think (and pray) the readers will love. When all that matters is telling the story you most want to tell in the best way possible, magic happens, and that magic rolls off the words and makes its way into readers’ hearts. And all that matters then is that you touched hearts. Not so much how many hearts you touched — quality over quantity and all that — but just the fact that your words made an impact, that the spark struck by your love for writing became a flame keeping someone warm on a cold day.