The world of writing is saturated. Words and opinions fall like so many drops of rain until the streets are flooded and the words have nowhere else to go.
Everyone wants to be heard and understood. Everyone wants to have value. So we write to be heard, to be valued and understood. But there is so much to take in, so many voices clambering one over the other. How am I going to be heard over the masses? What sets me apart from them? What makes my words worth hearing over the words of someone else?
I speak and no one listens. The silence makes me panic. So I plot and connive. I think of ways to be heard. I read the Freshly Pressed posts and develop an algorithm called “How to Get Freshly Pressed in 90 Seconds or Less.” I read all the articles about boosting traffic and growing readership.
And I cheat myself out of the truth.
I write shallow words to get a reaction and a boost in statistics. Sometimes the games work. Sometimes I feel good about myself because I get people to look at me and the numbers tell me I had a good day. But then, a month later, six months later, I read the words I wrote and their shallow trickery echoes off the walls. And I know I cheated. I cheated you and I cheated myself into believing cheap easy words were good enough so long as I got a reaction, so long as the numbers told me I had a good day.
When I’m honest with myself, I know the words I’ve written with the most sincerity are often the words with the least reaction from readers. It sucks to speak from the heart and not be heard. But when I read back over the words written from my heart, the words that printed my soul onto paper, those are the words that really matter. Those are the words that show me who I was, am, and am becoming. Those are the words that, even if ignored by others, will last and matter when the stats are forgotten and the euphoria of being noticed has faded away.
Why do I write? To be heard? Yes. But I realize now, finally, that I write not only to be heard by you, dear reader, but to be heard by myself. I write to hear myself speak out the breathings of my heart. I write to understand what doesn’t make sense until I can read it back in words articulate. I write to remember. To remember what I was thinking and feeling in a different time and place. I write to see who I was and better understand who I am becoming. I write because I can’t stop the words, however ignored or misunderstood they may be—I must put the words down in ink to know and remember. I write not just for you, but for me too. If we are to know and remember then cheap words won’t do.
Donald Miller said:
“The writing life really is like farming. If you keep planting and harvesting the soil without letting it rest, the crops suffer. In an age where everybody is competing for attention, a sense of panic can set in and we end up producing material that feels rushed and forced and written from a place of desperation rather than creative inspiration. But quality will win in the long run. And to create quality, you have to let the soil recover.”
I won’t cheat you or myself with cheap words written out of “desperation rather than creative inspiration.”
This is no game.
These are the breathings of my heart.
“I love you, and because I love you, I would sooner have you hate me for telling you the truth than adore me for telling you lies.” Pietro Aretino