"Will people read my writing?"
"Will anyone care?"
If you’re like me, these questions run through your head every time you sit down at the writing desk. It’s taken me a long time to get to the short answer –– it doesn’t matter.
You deserve to write.
You deserve to be lit up.
Asking the question, “Will anyone read my novel/story/essay/poem?” means you care about your craft. If you care about your craft, you love your craft.
Writing flips a switch in you, and you are alight.
You’ve felt it, right? When you’re in the groove? You’re fully immersed in the present moment. You lose track of space and time. All that matters is the work in front of you.
This is optimal experience. It’s the moment you’re most alive.
Psychologists call this Flow State. We don’t experience it all the time (but habits get us there more often). But if you’ve been writing for a while, you’ve felt it. It’s what pulls you back to the page.
This is the truth: You deserve to write.
You deserve time in the Flow State.
I’m about to get a bit woo-woo here but hang with me. I’ve got #receipts for this idea.
You deserve to access Flow State because that force––that particle-charged, drug-like joy of optimal experience––fills you with an energy that clings to you and splashes onto others.
You’ve felt that, right? When a fellow creative is so inspired, so “in the zone” with their own craft, it rubs off on you. Have you listened to a talk by a writer on fire for their work? Their energy, like static electricity, transforms you from a limp blanket to a wired thing with every fiber standing on end.
By doing your work, you can do that for others.
The electricity created when you practice writing builds up in your tissues. When you leave the writing desk, it sparks onto your kids. Your spouse. Your mom, dad, sisters. Your students. The grocery cashier. The Hertz rental guy.
Yes, the Hertz rental guy. A few weeks ago I needed to rent a truck for my move from San Diego to LA. My writing projects were going well. I was sticking to a routine and hitting flow almost every day. But I’m not usually the type to have a heart-to-heart with the rental car guy. My resting b**ch face is strong.
He just started talking to me while we waited for them to pull the car around. He told me he was worried about his best friend. He told me about a song he was writing. He told me about his life.
“I’m so sorry,” he said, suddenly aware he’d spilled his life story. “I know you’re not here to listen to the Hertz counter guy spill his soul. I don’t know what happened. I guess you’re just easy to talk to.”
You might be thinking, DUH! He was chattin’ you up, girl!
Nah. I have pretty good radar when it comes to flirting, and flirting this was not. This was a human in need of another human to see him. My writing practice filled me up; I was open and light. I was a total stranger, but I was safe and open to hold his burden. I could see him for those 10 minutes we waited for my truck.
You deserve to do the thing that lights you up. It’s how we open and connect.
It’s less about you, friend. It’s about all of us.
If your work touches one reader, it's enough.
If your writing never sees the light of day, but the practice of creation lights you up, it’s enough.
Who was your favorite author when you were a kid? Someone who influenced you profoundly. Picture them clearly. For me, that's Madeleine L'Engle.
Imagine if your favorite author had said no.
Instead of creating the work you love, imagine they said, “This has been done before. Who cares about my story?”
L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time was rejected 26 times before Farrar, Straus & Giroux published the book. Editors ridiculed her ideas. They told her to cut the novel in half. Even after agreeing to publish the book, Farrar said, “Don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t do well.”
In case you're not familiar with the book, A Wrinkle In Time (published in 1962) went on to win the Newbery Medal and remains in print to this day. It has sold over 10 million copies in its lifetime and was recently made into a major motion picture starring Oprah.
Wrinkle changed the face of science fiction. A young, awkward female protagonist sets course on a quest through the universe. In the 60’s, this was profound. L’Engle opened doors for other fantasy YA writers like Ursula K. Le Guin, Lloyd Alexander, and JK Rowling. Yes, you can thank Meg Murray for setting a place for Hermione Granger at the fantasy table.
Think about the books, movies, music, and art that have shaped your life. It’s the work you refer back to over and over again––the work that frames your life philosophies.
This work triggered something in you. It gave you epiphanies that may have taken longer to develop had you not interacted with that creative work. Sure, maybe the lightbulb would have turned on through other means. But, isn’t it sad to imagine the world without the work that changed you?
I don’t want to imagine a world without A Wrinkle In Time. I don’t want to imagine a world without L’Engle and the lessons she taught me through her countless other works. Her love for science, time travel, human connection, and spirituality shaped me on a core level. It influenced my faith, my interest in science, my morals, and my writing style.
L’Engle made me want to be a writer. I wrote to her when I was 12 years old and told her about my goal to be a novelist. She wrote a personal note back. The general gist: keep going.
I’m publishing this blog post on Thanksgiving because I’m grateful that Madeleine L’Engle said yes to her work. After 26 rejections, she still said yes. Her yes changed a genre. Her yes changed lives.
Please say yes to yourself. You deserve it. We deserve you.
It doesn’t matter if people read your writing or not. Yes, refine your craft. Study great writers. Do good work. Do great work if you can. But more importantly, keep going.
Your work is needed. You are needed.
I’m grateful for you.
Happy Thanksgiving. Go eat turkey. Love your family.
And tomorrow, get to work.