Is Writing Selfish?: What I learned from two years of blogging

Two years ago, I started a blog.  I was scared.  I had spent the better part of my adult life running away from writing.  In an attempt to cover up this fear, I had told myself that writing was just selfish.  Why did I think that what I had to say needed to be heard by other people?  What did I have to share that the world needed to hear?  I’m no expert in anything.  And really, isn’t writing really just narcissistic and self-centered?

But there was always this little voice inside me, this little part of me that felt unfulfilled when I wasn’t writing.  I travelled the world, teaching and volunteering in developing countries, devoted myself to helping people learn and grow.  I had the most amazing adventures and there was still something that was missing.

“If money were no object and you didn’t care about what people thought, what would you do?” my friend Ram asked me.  I didn’t stop to think about it.  “Write.”

But it was still too scary, too intimidating.  Everyone knows that being a writer is a tough job.  There’s no job security.  What if the muse doesn’t come anymore and you can’t buy groceries? What are you going to do about a retirement plan?  Worse than the practical issues were the emotional repercussions.  What if I bared my soul and no one wanted to read it?  What if I sent my writing to thousands of publishers and got thousands of rejections?  Am I strong enough to keep even through all of that?

So I did what seemed least risky at the time.  I started a blog.

I posted my first blog post steeling myself for negative comments or zero views.  Maybe only my mom would read it.  Perhaps that was all I could hope for, but hey, at least I would be writing.

That’s not what happened.

What did happen is that I learned the most important lesson that I’ve ever learned about writing.  I got positive comments, empathy from other WordPress writers and readers. People from all over the world read and followed my blog. I grew a writing community.

Can writing be selfish?  Sure, but it doesn’t have to be.

This is the thing about writing: writing has an enormous possibility for connecting with others.  Sharing your writing means sharing bits of yourself, putting yourself out into the world and trusting that other people will connect with you.  Every “like,” every comment is a connection.  Every description of scenery is a connection to that place.  Every word about an emotion is a connection with that feeling.

To me, connection, however fleeting, is what life is all about.  Each smile, each moment in the present, each shared experience with another person: these are the things that last once we’re gone.  These are the things that people will remember about us, and the things that we will remember on our deathbeds.  Writing is an extension of that.  Writing allows us to have these moments of connection with more people than we would be able to otherwise: people who are far away, people we haven’t met yet, people who were right there with us for the experiences we write about, and the people who couldn’t be.

So, thank you, writing community, for teaching me something that I really needed to learn.  I have no excuses anymore and nothing to be scared of.  Each time I write, I am fulfilling my highest potential – I am connecting, with myself and with  you.

A big thank you to Matti Vinni from flickr for the creative commons photo of  Essi Korva‘s sculpture, Connection.

45 thoughts on “Is Writing Selfish?: What I learned from two years of blogging”

  1. I can totally relate. I’ve written freelance on and off for years but writing creatively is a completely different ballgame. I’d wanted to write a blog for years, and I mean years, but did not get the nerve until last summer. Now I am having fun, connecting with others and continuing to hone my writing skills. In addition I’m taking steps to get my creative work published. It’s taken me nearly 40 years to learn this: what’s really crazy is to not spend time doing something you love, simply because you fear what would happen if you did,

  2. Nice post. I think, for me, writing is an intensely selfish act. I base this on the empirical evidence that no one else seems to be aware I exist. :) Pieces that I’m really tickled about get no love and garbage I just threw up on the blog out of spite become my top posts of the year. As far as I can tell there is no rhyme or reason to it. Yes, this is a bit of hyperbole, but it’s not as far-fetched as you might think. Most of the time I know what I’m doing won’t be well received but, as the writer, I reserve the right to see it through. That’s the selfish part. Sometimes when I’m half-way into a piece I can really feel it coming together and I know it will turn out to be something special. Other times it doesn’t but I force it because I’m laboring under my self-imposed deadlines. In the end I just do what I do and hope, like you, for those precious connections. That’s what it’s all about.

  3. You put that so well and published it at the right time for me. I have been blogging nearly 4 months. It is starting to take up a large chunk of time. But I love it. With three young children, and not bringing any income in, I feel I am being too self indulgent in giving time to blogging. Your post has helped remove some of the anxiety I am feeling about all of this. Thank you.

  4. I’m so glad you convinced yourself to write and share what you write. It’s such a solitary habit, that without the community of readers and fellow-writers, our stories would stay inside ourselves. That is selfish.

  5. Thanks for liking my latest post on Muse-ings. I appreciate your post because recently I was feeling a little stale on my blog and it probably showed. Blogging is great, but like anything, it has a creative life of its own which must be attended to.

  6. We writers like attention. Simple as that. Although I will say you have a nice way of sugarcoating it. I might just commit it to memory for future use. I’ll be sure to credit you, do not you worry. ;)

  7. I think we all go through “who will be interested in what I write.” But if there is one person that likes what I write than I have an audience. Now I believe that my writing is a gift and to not share it would be a sin. I still doubt but I still write. So to say this write for yourself and be honest in your feelings as this thought provoking post. I’m glad that you share your talent with us on WP.

  8. Hooray to you for finding the courage and your beautiful, inimitable voice. I write to be able to better hear what I have to say to the world. And if it changes even one person’s life…then that’s all I could ever hope for.

  9. I love how writing helps us clarify who we are. It helps us communicate better and really think about what we believe and if how we act is matching that belief. The more in tune we are the easier it is to call up what we want to say. To be honest though writing itself never gets easier. hehe. Cheers.

  10. Wow. Nicely done. I think you “liked” one of my entries a while back. I “get’ your feelings. You’re two years into your journey – I’m just about to finish my first! The hesitations are very real, indeed. Keep going…..

  11. Thanks for sharing your journey to writing…perspective is everything, right? I heard someone say years ago (on another blog) that writing is selfish. I guess it’s a point of view that I don’t relate to since I’ve been writing since I was a kid. I loved reading and just started writing my thoughts down. That’s it…lol

    But your essay made me understand that point of view more.

  12. Congratulations on 2 years of blogging!
    I liked the point you made about writing not having to be a selfish act, how it’s actually sharing a part of yourself. About 4 years ago, I wrote a bunch of short stories, and then forgot about them on purpose. I figured I’d be able to revise easier if I didn’t have as much of a connection to them. Well I read one the other day, and I can pick out the bits of my own experience that I gave to my characters, to the description, to the dialogue. Writing really is putting yourself out there, being vulnerable in a unique way. I love it!

  13. What a beautifully written, thoughtful and resonant essay! Thank you for sharing this. Congratulations on your two years of blogging and writing, I hope you celebrate many more such anniversaries. Thank you for stopping by to like my book review. Much appreciated.

  14. Folks who love to write are kindred spirits indeed.

    I had a post a whole back with similarities as you described. Although it came down to fear holding me back, I can relate to the things you’ve said.
    Thank you so much for taking the time to like and read my blog.

  15. I had a very similar experience recently. What would I do if I had all the money I ever needed? You can only play around and bang hookers for so long until you need to find something real to fill your time. Writing fills that void for me.

  16. Today I wanted to share with you a post I read recently. I may not have come across it, but the writer started following our blog and caught my interest!

    This is a beautiful wee piece, and explores writing as a means of connection. I love, “To me, connection, however fleeting, is what life is all about”!

  17. Reblogged this on Come In From The Cold and commented:
    “To me, connection, however fleeting, is what life is all about.”

    I came across this lovely blog because the author started following Come In From The Cold. Thank you, Lightning Droplets! The title of this piece caught my interest because of the years I spent involved in community arts, and my frequent fear of self-indulgence if the ‘art’ bit took a greater focus than the ‘community’ bit.

    I love the idea that writing is a means of connection, and totally agree. I hope you enjoy this post!

  18. Well said. I agree with all of your thoughts and insights. This is also why I write. And I just can’t seem to help myself. Blogging has taught me so much, particularly during 2012, when I (tried) to blog every day. Habits can be powerful tools that help us to achieve our goals.

  19. That is what I am learning in my blogging as well. Well said. And congrats on two years! I’ve been blogging for about 2 years as well but really have only been consistent for about 4 months? I’m finally feeling good about it and picking up a few followers as well. I love writing!

  20. Thank you. This is a great post! I’ve only just started a blog, and one of the best things so far is discovering inspiration on sites like yours. I used to love writing in school and starting a blog has rekindled that fire a bit.

  21. Thank you for this! An excellent blog that mirrors my own experience to a certain extent. I’ll admit to not being as active on the networking side of having a blog as I might be – something I always feel a little guilty about – but I always appreciate a good post that other people can relate to. If you’re interested, I’ve just done an entry on my own roundabout route into writing that’s just dying for some feedback from like-minded folk! Keep up the good work :-)

  22. Aw, this was an exceptionally good post. Taking the time and actual effort to produce
    a great article… but what can I say… I hesitate a whole lot and don’t manage to get anything done.

  23. Agreed. “’If money were no object and you didn’t care about what people thought, what would you do?’ my friend Ram asked me. I didn’t stop to think about it. ‘Write.’”

  24. As a new blogger, this was an encouraging post to read. There’s something very freeing about sharing your thoughts on a blog. I’m not always sure if I’m doing it “right” or if “anyone” is reading, but I’ve enjoyed the journey thus far. Do you have any tips on how to connect more with other bloggers?

    1. You are doing it! Starting conversations with people I find in the WordPress Reader that are doing similar things. I’ve also started joining Facebook groups of bloggers who have similar interests. And, once I started sharing my blog with people around me, it turned out a bunch of friends and family also have blogs I never knew about. Welcome to the blogosphere!

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