Why will anyone care about what I write? People ask me this question all the time. It’s usually after they started writing something they care about. And are getting that panicky feeling. The initial rush is gone and the real work has begun. So the doubts come to live where there was once adrenaline and endorphins.
Sometimes it’s a variation of the question. Why should anyone care about what I write? What if no one cares about what I have to say? Who cares about my story? What makes me think I’m so important?
They all mean slightly different things, but are essentially the same question.
And there is one kind of brutal answer. No one does care about you. Oh sure, someone does. Your mom or your significant other or your bestie. Maybe you’re lucky and lots of people care about you. Yay. But your readers, views, audience, fans? They don’t. Ow.
What they care about? Themselves. They care about their lives, understanding their lives. They are curious. They are reading, or listening to you, because they are interested in their own lives. Understanding their own lives. Or in a broader sense, life. And for some reason you have fallen into their path. At the beginning maybe because they are your friend, or a friend of your friend. Or a friend of the other person on the show, or on the website. Or maybe you wrote a great title and click baited them to your piece.
Later on they are maybe there because they read about you in the New York Times. Or your cover caught their eye. But they are still all there because of their own questions about their own lives. And because they want to respond. Responding is fun.
In high art it’s more about the deep questions. And deep thoughts. And feelings about them. What does life mean? What’s the cosmic truth? How can we make peace with our demons? Those sorts of things.
In more popular arts it’s about the physical responses. Laughing. Crying. Screaming. Dancing. And, if you want to consider porn a popular art form, coming. And why not? There are stories there.
But whether its high art or more popular arts, no one really does care about you. But they do care about your insights, your humor, your energy. People love stories. And being taken away from their own lives for a bit. But being inspired to pick themselves back up with new energy, wisdom, enthusiasm.
I encourage my students to get very personal, very real. Because when you get to that very real place it makes it easier to connect to the audience. And help them.
There’s one other thing. These questions are are all ‘nice’ ways of asking why me?
Why me is, in a sense, a whine. Not even a question. There is no answer to why me. Life isn’t fair.
I’ve learned this both the easy and the hard way. I learned it the easy way when I was a camp counselor and it was my turn to cut the pie into even pieces. I did my best. I really tried. But no matter what I did there were always bigger and smaller pieces. I’d send them down the table and they’d land in front of whichever girl, all entirely unplanned. Inevitably one of the girls would start whining, it isn’t fair, I got the smaller piece. I never heard one of them whine, it isn’t fair I got the bigger piece and now I’m going to have a sugar spike and get fat. Or it isn’t fair I got the bigger piece and now I have to feel guilty. Only it isn’t fair I got a smaller piece. Oh life. We want more. That’s ok that’s the hunger.
I learned it the hard way later in life when there were things I wanted that I felt I’d worked hard for and deserved and didn’t get. Other people were getting them. They were gettable. But not for me. At least not right then. I couldn’t bear he fact that life wasn’t fair. Until I could. And then I stopped asking why me and just started back in on the work.
Now I see how so clearly life isn’t fair and that I’ve gotten a big piece of life pie. The life pie is more mysterious than the apple pie. It has visible and invisible parts, and the visible parts make the invisible parts harder to experience. It was a shift in perspective.
And I try to help my students do writing that comes from that place.
One of the things that makes your piece of the pie big is the story you’ve been given. And the gift you’ve been given to tell that story. And why people will care? Not because its your story but because we are all humans dealing with the same questions and needs. A desire to love and be loved. A longing to understand the cosmos and our place in it. A fear about the future of the planet. Trouble with human relations. Friends and family. A struggle to support ourselves materially. Etc etc.
And if you can tell your story about those things it’s not you that people are caring about. It’s your answers to their questions about their own lives. It’s your ability to take them on a ride.
You are there to be of service, your writing, it’s about you but it’s really not about you. Isn’t that liberating?
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