“Why don’t you write for other people? Write poetry, write fiction that they can engage on their own level, get some pleasure from? Maybe, doing that would help you build an audience who would want to hear what you have to say on other subjects that are important to you.”
I write for myself. I write with a sheer explicit force because I have something that I need to say, something I just don’t believe other people are engaging.
Sometimes, I write for others, helping them find their voice or get their messages into the world. I do that as service.
My life of consuming service, though, left me battered. I wasn’t able to take care of myself while taking care of my parents.
“You have spoken for me. You have spoken for your mother. When are you going to speak for yourself?” my father asked repeatedly from his deathbed.
I speak for myself. The challenge isn’t me speaking for myself. The challenge is speaking in a way that other people are eager, willing and able to really take on board.
There are good reasons for me to write in a voice other than the explicit, pedantic voice I habitually use now. Success in reaching an audience is a good thing that can be parlayed into other forms of success, rewards that nourish and opportunities that extend the reach. The communication of moments can draw people in, make them want to know more, want to open to a deeper understanding.
The blocks I hold to serving the desires of others are huge, accretions of a lifetime spent caring for other people, keeping them safe and comfortable through my own denial of desire, body and self.
If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound? If someone screams out their experience and there is no one there to engage it, does that person really exist?
I can easily make a list of the sensible things I should do to package myself to be attractive to an audience. Actually doing that work after a lifetime spent packaging myself to be tolerable to an audience who didn’t want to be challenged, who didn’t get the joke, well, that is another ask altogether.
It took an enormous amount of effort and focus to do the kind of work I needed to do to be here today as functional as I am. That is easy to forget, because it is like the iceberg; people see where I am, but not the struggle to get here. In my experience, usually they just asked for more, saying that if I could make it to here, surely I could go farther.
The modern call to homogeneity makes people ask others to eliminate their differences, the bits that give them character. We don’t see that the flip side of every struggle is a gift, that scars mark not just our imperfections but also our triumphs.
You can argue that I shouldn’t lead with my intensity, that I speaking in a more gentle and genteel way, tame and assimilated, using a vernacular that serves people may be better for me, and you may be right. You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, and being of service to people in a way they find sweet enough to be palatable can bring rewards.
My struggle, though, hasn’t been sweet. An easy life rarely brings the rewards of a strenuous life. The lessons of continuous common humanity isn’t that you don’t have to change, don’t have to do the hard work of opening your heart, of feeling all your emotions, don’t have to let bits of you die so you can find new. Change isn’t just another layer to put on, a moment out of your day. Change is work.
I probably do need to get to a place where I can serve the world by creating more accessible bits which give people a handle to access the deeper stuff I have to offer. I probably do need to work to trust the notion that I can be liked and not have to sell out my deeper struggle.
To do that, though, I need to get over my need to scream into the void, to brutally and explicitly share my experience in the world. I need to heal some, be nourished some, be affirmed some.
That is still a struggle.