It's Monday morning, so how about I go ahead and embarrass myself by confessing something to you? Sound good? Okay then. Here it is:
I'm mortified to admit it, but when I started writing full-time, I felt like I deserved an audience.
But really, I did. I thought I was ready for people to come listen to me, to read my words.
After all, I'd done my part. I worked hard at school to learn about stringing words together. I had developed a few interesting ideas. I figured that showing up and reading my stuff was the least the world could do.
When I started my first blog (a lonnnnnng time ago), I figured that, basically, people would be beating down my virtual door, devouring my lovely little blog posts, and begging for more.
Probably some editor would fling a contract at me. "Write us a novel," they would cry. "We want to read it."
... Okay. Can I stop there? Because seriously, my cheeks. SO RED.
Well, no, there's one more little part to that story, and it's this: yes, a few friendly faces showed up. Yes, I had some readers. A few.
But that was it.
I was disappointed. More than that--I couldn't understand it. My desire to write shriveled up. I eventually closed that blog down. And I had a very hard time believing I should write the novels I was working on.
The writing life just felt very hard and cold and unrewarding.
What I didn't realize: By expecting massive applause, I had set myself up to feel disappointed. Neglected. Undervalued.
When we let our ego call the shots, we've lost.
It's easy to see why we let pride win out, though, right? After all: If you're writing ANYTHING, you're working hard. There's sweat mixing in with all that ink. This isn't easy stuff.
Also, it takes a bit of chutzpah to believe that you have something worth saying. To get over the crippling desire to stay silent and unnoticed.
To get past the fact that there are a bajillion other people writing blogs and spinning sentences and throwing novels at the world.
That's a big obstacle. And sometimes pride is the thing that steps up and says it has an answer.
After all, it's nice to believe the ego, right? It's so compelling. It lets us strut around and decide that we are big and everyone else is small. That we deserve prizes and accolades and thousands of readers and I don't know, a salary, perhaps.
But it's an ugly thing, to feel like people owe us attention. To be convinced that the world owes us an audience.
And oh, guess what: All that ego and all that pride... it makes us profoundly NOT FUN to listen to.
(If you've ever been trapped by a blatherer at a party, you understand this.)
So how do we fight it? How do we counteract that sense of entitlement? How do we douse our pride with gasoline, and burn our little egos out?
I think one of the best things I've learned--the thing that shut my pride right up--was a profound respect for the reader.
Ahem: That's you.
You have so many other things that you could be doing right now, and believe me, I'm aware of it.
There are more voices you could be reading, more writing blogs. Or heck--you could be checking YouTube for a laugh. There are errands to run and there's probably coffee to make (I hope you're having coffee--it's a Monday for heaven's sake).
There are a thousand things that are competing for your time and your attention.
And--presuming that you're still with me--you've picked this blog post.
You're trusting me with this little corner of your time, this patch of your attention. And that's a trust that I have very strong feelings about.
Is this getting weird for you? Sorry to be so direct. But the truth is: I think about you a lot.
You don't owe me a thing, but I owe you plenty. I owe you the best that I can do.
The best words, the best ideas, the best writing tips. I've promised to tell you every helpful thing I know about the writing life. And I'll even try to be a little funny if I can manage it.
Why? Because I respect you.
Because I think that your time matters.
Because I now believe that writers are actually meant to serve the readers, and not the other way around.
And because--not to get all SAPPY on you--I'm grateful. Darned grateful to put words out into the world and have someone read them.
It's a privilege. It's an honor. It's about trust.
And that's my best weapon against the ego-gorilla that shows up sometimes, banging on its chest and demanding to be heard.
I shut that gorilla up by reminding it of what I've learned: that in spite of all its shouting, the ego is a fairly brittle thing. It's restrictive. It dulls my mind and keeps me from growing. It sets me up for disappointment. And it turns all my ideas into bland, flavorless offerings.
I'm much better off without it. And so is my writing.
So, a happy Monday to you, my well-respected reader.
Here's to serving others with all that we write.
(And if there's a blog topic that you're wanting to hear more about, or if you have some ideas about how I can run this space differently, or if there's some other way that I can be serving you all better, scroll down and leave a comment. Seriously. I'd love to hear from you!)