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.

Inspiration: Look Up More: The Shared Experience of Absurdity

I’ll just come out and say it, I love the absurd.  There’s something magical and beautiful about frivolity that’s not tied down to reason and rationality.  Absurdity has this detachment from the material world which makes me remember that I am not only a physical body that needs to eat and shit, but also a mind that needs to be stimulated and awed.  There’s some sort of wizardry that the ludicrous possesses which can turn even the most mundane of situations and surroundings into a wonderland.

Take for instance Christo and Jean-Claude’s outdoor art, The Umbrellas.  It instantly turns a brown, barren California landscape into a fairyland. And that’s exactly what’s amazing about absurdity.  It’s play for adults.  It’s a time when we are pulled out of daily routine and everyday life and invited to immerse ourselves in imagination and wonder.  It invites us to see the world around us not as a hard, material setting but as a playground ripe with beauty and ready for exploration.

The magic and wonder of the ridiculous is never so powerful as when it is shared.  In the TED Talk below, Charlie Todd, founder of ImprovEverywhere, discusses the power of sharing absurd experiences.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the video:

“I love this moment in the video, because before it became a share experience, it was maybe a little bit scary, or something that was at least confusing to her.  And then once it became a shared experience, it was something funny and something she could laugh at.”

“There is no point and there doesn’t have to be a point.  We don’t need a reason, as long as it’s fun.”

This video really inspired me because it made me think about how something just a little bit absurd lends itself to an entire story.  The people who witnessed the no-pants subway ride (and all the previous ones that followed!) will forever have that story to tell — and to share.  It will be something to connect over and an experience that they can give to others through the telling of that story for the rest of their lives.

All storytelling should have an element of this.  Stories should leave you wanting to retell them, to share them.  Good stories are instant bridges between people.  They bring us together and link us in common experience.

And for me, I always want a little bit of the absurd.  I want a little bit of play, a little wink at my reader.  I want that moment when my reader and I are both frolicking in the playground of wonder and imagination and beauty that is the world we live in.

Because it’s really fun to play by yourself, but it’s even more fun to play with others.*

*Sexual innuendo absolutely intended.  I’m sorry.  I couldn’t resist.

Creative Commons love to Jon Delorey for the photo and, of course, to TED for the video!