When I was in 2nd grade I wrote a report on lettuce. I just made it up so it didn't have any factual information in it. I followed my mom around all morning begging to read it to her. When she heard it she said, (meaning well, I'm sure) "Let's look it up."
So she got out her cookbook and had me copy a paragraph about lettuce, and that's what I read in class. It was over fifty years ago and I still remember being devastated that nobody ever read my brilliant piece on lettuce. Since then I've followed lots of people around, begging them to notice my notations. Writers need readers.
At the Tattered Cover bookstore in Denver we went to a book signing/reading by Anne Lamott, the author of Bird by Bird. She said,
"When my students ask why I write I say, 'Because I want to and I'm good at it.' I tell them what it will be like in the morning when I sit down to work, with few ideas and a lot of blank paper, with hideous conceit and low self-esteem in equal measure, fingers poised on the keyboard. I tell them they'll want to be really good right off, and they may not be, but they might be good someday if they just keep the faith and keep practicing. And they may even go from wanting to have written something to just wanting to be writing, wanting to be working on something, like they'd want to be playing the piano or tennis, because writing brings with it so much joy, so much challenge. It is work and play together."
I'm there. I love writing for it's own sake, but it is a scary business. You strip off your false front and show your bare-naked heart and actually ask for judgment.
When I'm sitting at my desk, alone with my keyboard and screen, the ever present worry is, "Will they get what I mean?" They are ever present on the other side of the computer or looking over my shoulder while I type. But when I look up to ask them what they thought, they disappear. "Who am I writing this for?" I wonder.
I loved your comments and emails on last night's post. I think we're all wondering who we're writing for, and if what we have to say is worth reading, even though we have important ideas clambering to get out. We put pressure on ourselves to be consistent, creative, funny, honest and useful without hurting anybody's feelings. And then we compare ourselves, speculating that our original isn't as original as theirs.
Isn't it interesting that reading someone else's doubts is so reassuring? Your questions answer my questions, reminding me that it's not about being the best, or the most popular. It's not even about lettuce. It's about connecting with others through words to discover ourselves. What I'm trying to say is thank you for being my they.
~Who are you writing for? Write a letter to them.