There’s a delicate balance that any writer must deal with when once he or she decides in earnest to put words to paper, virtual or otherwise. It’s a two-fold aspect of the calling of the writer and I have found myself of late thinking more and more about what it means to my writing. I’m talking about the balance between trying to promote oneself as a writer, and losing oneself in the craft of writing and its sacred purposes. I know I need to find people willing to read, publish and pass on the words I have written, and I know how tempting it is to let that noble goal shape the kind of writing I do. The written word can have intrinsic power, but that power lies dormant if there are no readers who are moved by the words. At the same time, I must ask myself if what I’m writing truly reflects the spirit that moves me to write in the first place.
In my quest to understand the process of getting published I’ve found that I can write the most wonderful words that express the loftiest of ideas, but there may not be a market for it. I’ve seen writing on websites that appears to me to be trivialities sensationalized or pain promoted for the sake of getting reads, likes and votes. I’ve even seen essays written on how to use certain techniques to increase the number of points on the scoreboard of a particular social media site: Write it a certain length but no more, update often, focus on these trendy topics, and write for this particular audience. People will brag about how their clever tactics have increased their visibility and brought them their fifteen minutes of fame. I’ve had to ask myself if this is truly what the writing game is all about.
But then in my searching I come across something written in obscurity, written for love alone, written to share truth or artistry or deep emotions and ideas along a life path headed toward a discernable goal. Though I find myself captivated by such works, I also often find that they go relatively unnoticed. In corresponding with those particular authors, I’m lifted further still by the depth of their hearts and the intricacies of their minds. I then fall more in love with their stories and am the better man for it.
So, is it to be one or the other? Am I destined to dive into the lower realms of sensationalism and pen titillating vignettes in order to make a name for myself; or must I hover in the place of anonymity while remaining true to the character of writing that reaches for lofty heights where hearts are moved and lives changed. And are these questions themselves an exercise in my own puffed up perception of myself? What is the answer for the author who wishes to see his or her work before the eyes of those who will truly appreciate it and cry out for more? I think it lies in detours.
In my searching, the answer came to me in the form of voices struggling to express their anguish and their dreams in their writing. I went to a writing website and registered a persona, typed in all my information, pointed my future readers to my website and began posting material for consumption. I then began exploring the website and reading stories and poems from aspiring writers from all around the world. As I commented on their writings and sent notes of encouragement and appreciation, I began to build a following. As I continued to get to know these wonderful writers, I found myself bonding with them and sharing in the strength of their character and the struggles of their hearts. After a short while, my goal of reads, likes and votes seemed so inconsequential in comparison to growing in my relationship with these kindred spirits. That first “detour” along this new journey led me to consider what I was putting out on my own page.
In response to the pain and depth of character I encountered, I began to write poetry that spoke to the particular needs I had found within the words others had written. However, rather than mimicking their angst-driven writing, I allowed their words of pain to transform my writing into something that could speak to both them and to me. I demonstrated my understanding of their struggles – for indeed, they had been struggles I too had endured – but I provided a hope that had grown out of my faith and transformed life experience. As I wrote, I found myself growing more connected to those whose writing I had come to admire so much, and growing more deeply in love with the craft of writing itself. Rather than writing to impress, shock, entice, or scratch ears itching for popular points of view, I wrote to share myself and my perspective.
I don’t profess to have all the wisdom and insight; indeed, as a writer, I suffer from the same kind of inner madness that all serious writers possess. But I know that in writing from the heart in response to the need, in using words to fill a void or point the way while offering to walk that way as well, there comes a depth that is truly inspired by a muse more powerful than publicity and fame. In choosing to be who I am, a man of words, a wounded healing writer and a humble playwright on the stage of life, I find a profound peace and a sense of satisfaction that goes beyond the words themselves. I connect in the truest sense to the real purpose of writing: to inspire, to heal and to connect with weary travelers on the road we all must travel toward our ultimate home.
The most amusing result of letting go and allowing the writing to take me where it – rather than I – wanted to go is I received more of those things I was searching for in the first place; only now they were put in their proper perspective. They became a means to meet even more fellow authors and to share more deeply in the joy of writing and its deeper, more eternal purposes!
As I think about all this, I chuckle because I suppose I haven’t really given an answer to those who might have been seeking some insight into furthering one’s writing career. I suppose I detoured in another direction, and for that I don’t apologize, but simply offer it for what it is. I’ve found that my exceptional writing, the kind that touches people in a deeper part of their spirits, has always come when I allow the detours to come freely. Instead of achieving the goals I set up for myself, I’ve found that those goals are transformed as they are exposed to whatever comes up ahead on the road the detour has taken me. There is joy and freedom in that. Whether it will ultimately lead to more writing contracts and publication is yet to be seen. I do know for sure that my first book came as a result of a detour in the original goal. I had first written my first book as a means to further my career as a youth director, but its rejection led me to consider publishing houses, one of which was willing to invest in my writing and produce a modest little youth training book. My 8 years of radio writing came after I decided on a whim to apply for a full-time radio position and then settled for a small part-time spot on the airwaves better suited for opportunities to produce material and get it out for others to enjoy.
As you seek to better yourself, don’t stop trying to find those who will read and comment and like and vote on your work. But don’t let it be the end in itself, but rather an avenue for making connections to your readers. Their stories and their hearts will lead you to places you may never have dreamed of going and direct you in ways you never thought possible. I’d love to hear your stories of how the little detours in your life and the balance you found between promotion and inspiration has led to wonderful new paths along the writing road!