A true writer (and yes, there are true ones), is sensitive. Overly-sensitive, in fact. They’re the kind of people you tease and they go home and brood over it for days. The type of person you criticize and you can’t understand why they take it so personally (“You asked for input!”). A writer is a raw nerve, if he’s honest with himself.
Why else would he have that compulsion to write, besides that sensitivity, that rawness? He has this bundle of emotions and he doesn’t know what to do with it, and so a piece of paper (or a blank Word document) suddenly seems like a safe refuge, a place to run, to throw those emotions down, to let out that sensitivity in a place where there aren’t people wondering why you’re “so touchy”. A place where you don’t have to pretend to be a tough one like all the rest.
Because, truth be told, that’s the world even the most liberal-minded person wants you to live. They want you to be a rock. To fight. To be “brave”. And their idea of being brave is to build a shell around yourself. The exoskeleton of ants who go out, do their job, live their routine (from partying to sitting at home eating dinner with the family) and then do the same thing all over again every day. Routine takes place of passion. And the “passion” they do exhibit is when they get angry on blog comments or in political debates with their friends. Or when they consume empty media. Or when they judge you for being you.
That’s not to put down the people who do those things, but to remind you who they are, and how different they are from you, the person who wants to write.
And, more importantly, how flawed, how stupid, (okay now I’m putting them down), their conception of what bravery is, of what strength is.
To them, strength means erasing fear. To them, if they were to write, it would be a political diatribe or a well-researched paper that has no flaws (ie humanity) or a screed against all the fools of the world. If they were feeling randy, they would write a novel about Jack Fleming, international super-spy who kills people for fun and makes love to women because he’s an awesome reflection of who these people wish they were.
In other words to an egoist, bravery is something you go out and do out of duty. Or calculation. Or just to make yourself look good.
(On a side note, the hard religionists are no different: “Go and do!” they say, “Go and follow the laws and stop looking at the things that bother you! God and existence and reality shouldn’t bother you because you are religious now. Stop your whining, send your kids to a school you don’t like, live a life you feel uncomfortable with, and convince yourself it’s all worth it. Because you’re a man, and you’re tough!”)
These are the people you actually often see become the successful writers of the day. We like to remember people like Tolstoy, but there were a bunch of egoists in his time too, and he decried them all. So did Blake, who couldn’t stand the hard, unfeeling, “critical art” that surrounded him.
Like Tolstoy and Blake, Van Gough decried this stale art, saying, “The world only concerns me so far as I feel a certain debt and duty towards it and out of gratitude want to leave some souvenir in the shape of drawings or pictures—not made to please a certain tendency in art, but to express sincere human feeling.”
And most importantly, the worst egoists live not around us, but in our minds. Of course, it is the egoists around us who give us the script we tell ourselves (it could have been parents or teachers or that idiot commenter on your blog post), but we are most often the ones actually saying the words to ourselves.
But for all egoists, whether within or without: the answer is simple. Your writing, if you’re going to do it, needs to come from a place of total assuredness. A place without vulnerability. And, most importantly, you can’t make any mistakes.
So, you speak to them, let’s say, about something you wrote, that was horribly vulnerable, something that exposed your heart and your soul, and you say how scared you are about sharing it and they say:
“Well, maybe you shouldn’t. Maybe you’re scared because you shouldn’t be writing that.”
Or they’ll say. “Don’t share something like that, it’ll hurt people, it’ll hurt you, it’ll hurt the world,” because maybe you shared something that wasn’t completely positive. Something about a conflict or a pain in your life.
Or then you’ll publish it anyway, and the negative comments will come rolling in, and you’ll just want ot curl up in a ball and die.
And then you make the mistake of again sharing your pain with this egoist, this non-artist, this person who thinks you should be an exo-skeleton, and they say, “Well, what did you expect? You put yourself out there. You wrote something personal and vulnerable and something dangerous because it challenged the way peoople think, you idiot, and now you’re surprised when people get angry at you. What did you expect? ”
“What did you expect?”
Those are the words either you will tell yourself, or the words the egoists will tell you.
Because to them, they can’t compute a person who has made himself vulnerable through his writing. They can’t imagine being open and honest and telling something that may upset others because it comes from deep within you and not the place that just wants to please others or sell novels or get shares.
Their words essentially come down to: “You want to write? You need to be strong. Writing is for the strong, not the vulnerable. It is for the critic, not the emotional, unstable, heart-on-the-sleeve person.”
These are the voices that do not understand art. These are the voices who have, unfortunately, also overtaken art (at least the kind we all “respect” and wish we could be part of).
These are the voices of liars. And their lies will kill your writing if you listen to them, especially if the voices come from within.
Writing isn’t for the strong. It’s not for the hard or the critical or the people who know how to write to sell a novel.
It’s for the weak. It’s for the vulnerable. It’s for the scared.
Because writing, true beautiful writing that actually affects both the writer and the reader is writing that comes from a place of absolute and utter vulnerability. A place that is unique only to you, and thus an incredibly scary place to share. True writing is doing your best to be honest about the things you are most in need of being honest about: and that is usually something we’ve been hiding deep down out of fear or regret or that egoist voice telling us to keep quiet.(Side note: this does not mean that you need to literally write posts about you. But they should come from the part of you that is soft and scared and vulnerable)
Writing is for the weak, but that is also why it is for the brave. You have to be brave to let out those emotions, that vulnerability, and then let others read it, evaluate it, use their critical eyes on it and start smashing their exoskeletons against it.
Who is brave? The crab who comes out of his shell to reveal who he really is, or the crab stuck in his shell, never leaving it for another so he can grow?
The brave ones are the weak scared ones. The brave ones are the honest ones. The brave ones are the ones that are saying something they feel needs to be said and even if they know some people will attack them for it.
True bravery, as they say, is being scared, but doing it anyway.
Those egoists, they aren’t scared and they just do, flitting around like parrots, squawking at anything that catches their attention. They’re yelling at you because you represent their true fear: a world in which we are truly open and honest. A world in which they would have to be vulnerable. A world in which the artifice they’ve created, the illusion they’ve projected, is popped like a balloon.
You are a threat to them. You are a threat to all the people who live in a shell, convinced they can hide in a world of dishonesty and lack of vulnerability.
In other words, you are a warrior. You are at battle. At battle with hardness. With fakeness. With cold imbalanced intellect. With a world who rewards the loud, angry ones instead of the quiet, soft ones.
You are the bravest, and (especially if you write online), you may come out of this all with a few battle scars.
But you’ll have lived your mission. You will have lived the life that you know you are meant to live. And you will have changed the world, even if you only reached one other person.
You are a hero.