If I were suddenly forced to come up with the most compelling reasons to write, I would say:
To nurture and strengthen the heart, deepen the dialogue, expand the wisdom and imagination of humans on what it means to be alive and aware now.
Those seem like worthy and compelling reasons right?
But I can’t honestly say they are my only reasons for writing. These are my hopes and intentions for sure, if my work accomplishes anything close to that effect on people, I would be happy with it.
But we all know lots of people want to improve or fix things, “set a good example”, and “be the light”. Lots of people are also horribly misunderstood, ridiculed, and inadvertently cause great suffering despite (or even because of) their good intentions.
As much as I respect and appreciate people with good intentions, I must admit, I lost the need to change the world.
I lost the need to change the world when I realized how difficult it was (and always is) to change myself, family members, and close friends, let alone acquaintances and strangers.
I lost the urge to lecture others because I experienced (and continually experience) how annoying and how frustrating it is to be lectured, even (and especially) when I agreed with the lecturer!
I lost the compulsion to judge others when I realized how difficult it was (is) to truly know myself, how impossible it often is to control my very own actions and emotions.
And I lost the desire to be the smartest, the best, the most talented, the most accomplished person “in the room” when I realized how terribly unpleasant, unfulfilling, and co-dependent these definitions actually are, above all, how relative they are. I realized how terribly shallow, monocular and isolating such a perspective is. How stupid, boring, less-enlightened and unappealing they needed other people reduced to.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t strive to improve myself. Or that I don’t want anyone to speak out. It doesn’t mean I don’t care about the world. I care immensely about human rights, the environment and progress. The fact is, I am also aware that problems exist for many reasons, many of them are extremely good reasons. Demonizing other people, heaping blame on them, dictating any privileged idea of “goodness” or “rightness” does not solve any problems, it may likely deepen them and create even more.
What help is a “good” person who cannot see the good in others? What is the value of a person who values themselves as better than others? What is the use of unsolicited advice from a know-it-all who talks more than listens, projects rather than observes, and wants to “improve” things without a full understanding or compassion for the things to be improved?
Having been cast as the “less enlightened” or “the problem” myself, there is a posture of smug self-righteousness and brash confidence I can never assume. Yet, despite and because of all of this, I still feel the need to create, to communicate, to share my experiences with others.
It is a truly astounding time to be a writer right now.
With the ever-growing power and scope of the internet, one cannot share anything with the public these days without inciting both praise and criticism. These feedback loops are not only direct and immediate, they can be numerous, as well as incredibly intense and overwhelming. But most of all, there is also the dead silence of oblivion to contend with, the whimper of lukewarm receptions and abrupt ghostings that often comprise the bulk of the creator-internet relationship. It whispers in tongues to a writer’s every insecurity more than any troll’s brazen comment ever will.
Being a writer now can be immensely lonely. It is a private dance of one in the dark broadcast in bright lights all around the world. It is a masturbation of unoriginal thought. It is an unpaid exercise in futility.
All this. All this is now. It is not a complaint or a nostalgia for “a simpler time”. It is simply a description of the current landscape. It is astounding. It is tragic.
It is worth not only exploring, but cultivating, pitching your tent into and making something resembling a home.
Text and images by M.P. Baecker.