Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Eternal Masochist: Why I Continue to Write

I've heard writing is easy. All you need to do is sit down, open a vein, and let your lifeblood flow out onto the page. Is that it, really? Just give us your soul and we'll give you all the criticism and self-loathing you've been looking for your whole life. Oh yeah, and we're probably not going to pay you much and you'll need a real job so you can eat. Sounds like fun, right? It is. I've not had this much fun in a very long time. I don't know. Maybe I'm just a masochist. Maybe I just need the attention. Whatever it is, I was born to write. So I do this thing because it's what gives me purpose, even when it doesn't feel good in the moment.

Writing is an Act of Love

Writing a piece on love and vulnerability was the first time I knew this blog was going to be a success. It was in reaction to a TED talk that moved me. I wanted to share what I'd seen. I tried simply sharing the link, but it wasn't enough. I knew I needed to write about it. Learning how to embrace vulnerability was a life lesson I was just beginning to learn. I had been running from my problems and fears all my life. Seeing how a friend was crippled by doubt and fear, I saw it in myself. He wouldn't watch the video as much as I tried to show it to him. So when I wrote a piece about it, I had him in mind. As it turns out, my friend read the piece and still didn't get the sort of revelation I was hoping for, but I learned even more about what I thought about life and love through the writing process.

I'm still learning from that piece of writing. One thing is how much I've grown in just a few weeks. I still can hardly believe we've made it this far. Back in those days, it was just James, Kenoki, and me. We had no idea that this was going to blossom into ten contributors. Today, as I think about writing and how much vulnerability is involved, I see writing as an act of love. It is what binds us to each other. It's our desire to feel connected. When I write, it comes from a place deeply rooted within to make a difference in the world. The reason I write is that I want to help. It's the need to be entertaining, confrontational, and freely-sharing of  experiences that are true to life. This blog is about my experience and what I've learned. My goal is to make my reader better for reading it. It's a grandiose goal; one which may be destined to fail, but even so, it's about telling stories that I can be proud of.

Finding My Voice

All this writing has really helped me discover what's true and important to me. I used to think that I needed to write The Great American novel, whatever that means, in the process becoming world-famous and filthy rich. I had hoped I'd be respected for my intellect, but that big dream turned out to be getting in the way of doing the very things I wanted to be doing: telling stories. I'm not sure that I want to focus on fiction so much anymore. I still want to write and study fiction, but I'd rather write about life the way I'm doing it on the blog.

When reading Lawrence Block's Telling Lies for Fun and Profit, I came to realize that I should be writing what I read. I've never been more engaged than when I read nonfiction of a philosophical or scientific nature. Certainly, there are some forms of fiction that I enjoy reading, but there's a good chance that fiction isn't really my thing. I want to explore topics in the real world. I want to write philosophical arguments. I want to write books that spark debates about how one ought to live. There could be a place for that in fiction, but I see now that I really want to lend my voice to subjects in the real world.

Willing to Take Criticism

I had a good friend tell me that my editing was so bad that M3 couldn't be taken seriously. I think there was a time when that sort of honest criticism would have cut to the bone and crippled my self-esteem. I'm not saying it didn't hurt; it just matters a lot less now that I've got momentum. I know I'm getting better at this everyday, and ultimately, I know I could use the help in spotting mistakes. I still love what I'm doing and I know I have a lot of room to grow. What I can't stand is criticism just for the sake of sounding important. I've run into a lot of that, and I've learn to ignore it.

Lessons in Missing the Point

Not everyone is going to understand my writing. I've had this happen a few times. I think I'm being clear. The words are right, and yet it seems that they didn't read my piece at all. It's like certain words on the page were invisible. It might be that they read certain intentions in my words that were never there or don't believe me when I say certain things. It's apparent to me now that no matter how closely I pay attention to details, misunderstandings are bound to happen. It can be frustrating, but at the same time I'm learning how to be less of a control freak.

We can only share our experiences with others, but once it's out in the world, we lose control of it. In communication, it's often not what you say, but it's what people hear. We don't see the world as it is, but rather as we are. I've come to expect misunderstandings and almost embrace them. It's a challenge that will always be faced. To make sure that I express myself with the utmost clarity so that when the inevitable misunderstanding occurs, I can feel confident that I said what I needed to say.

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