Wednesday, May 31, 2017

If You're Stephen King, Ignore This Post

Have you ever wondered if your work is making a difference in the world? Do you question the validity of your writing? Do you wonder if anyone would notice if you never wrote another word or if your books were never published or ceased to be published?

If you’re a writer (and not Stephen King) and you have these doubts, you’re in good company. If you’re Stephen King, you may stop reading at any time. None of this will interest you. But if you’re a writer and have never had the aforementioned doubts, well, let’s face it, you’re just plain weird.

As uncomfortable as those questions are for those of us who write daily and hope and dream our words will one day become articles, short stories, books (both non-fiction or fiction), or any one of a myriad of other publication possibilities, they nevertheless run through our minds with alarming frequency. Because our hearts and souls are poured into our work (not to mention tons of time and more often than not, money), the way in which we view ourselves is important and validates our worth as writers. Whether or not that’s a reasonable way with which to view our worth, most writers I know (and I’m one of them) evaluate their contribution to society by asking ourselves those same questions.

If I ever become puffed up (hahaha!) about my publishing record, all I’d have to do to rectify that condition (i.e., de-puff) would be to visit a Barnes and Noble or other equally large bookstore. It never fails to discourage me when I see the vast array of books that have already been published. And that doesn’t even count the ones in the queue, or those that aren’t featured on those bookshelves, of which there are thousands upon thousands. Does the world really need anything written by me? What difference could it possibly make if my book lands on those hallowed shelves? Should I quit while I’m ahead and let the world continue spinning without my input?

There are just two answers to that last questions. Yes or no. Yes, you could stop writing and chances are, aside from some family members, co-workers, friends, or fellow writers, the world would continue on its merry way without a hitch. Or you could answer no—for a very good reason.

Very few of us will write bestsellers. I know, I know, it hurts to hear that. It took me a long time to rid myself of the fantasy that my work would not only garner me some nice, hefty royalties, but would change the world as we know it. But once I got past that hurdle, I realized that I really don’t need to write a bestseller. Even if a book sells millions of copies, does it change the world? In some instances, yes. The Holy Bible is a good example. Fifty Shades of Grey is another. But look at the ways in which those particular examples changed the world. Yeah. Get my drift? So writing a bestseller doesn’t mean your work will impact the world in an earth-shattering, life-changing manner.

What if we lowered our expectations to impacting just a few people? Maybe a stranger needs to hear precisely what our novel imparts, what our article or short story or non-fiction book points out to the reader. Maybe a loved one needs to witness our dogged insistence that the project we’re working on is important enough to give up some television or golf or extra sleep. Maybe someone will read what we have to say, share it, and change the course of a co-worker’s day. Maybe they’ll discover their own self-worth through something you write that you’d never guess in a million years would impact them the way it ultimately will.

The fact is we’ll never really know how much good our work creates because we aren’t inside the minds of everyone else in the world. All we can do is examine our own minds, delve deep, and write what seems important to us in the best way possible. Someone, somewhere, at some time or another, will be affected in a positive way.

And isn’t that the real reason we write?

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