Writing Belongs to Everyone
So why let anyone deter you from bringing your ideas to life?
How helpful are those listicles outlining why you don’t have what it takes to make it as a writer and why do you even read them?
Why hand over your hard-earned cash to those feeding our collective impostor syndrome and discouraging us?
Look, writing isn’t rocket science and few are those of us who don’t already do it on a daily basis. Do you have a smartphone? Do you use social media? Do you communicate by email? If so, you already have a writing habit, one you keep honing and developing without exerting any particular effort.
Because print is still the leading way our society communicates. Even TED talks have transcripts, don’t they?
If writing is something you feel strongly about, there’s no reason why you too can’t start bringing your ideas to life online. Millions of humans are doing it; seeking to understand one another better is how we build a more tolerant and tolerable world to live in.
Or at least that was Tim Berners-Lee’s idea.
Words are connectors.
Connecting is what you’re doing when you’re texting, chatting, or posting on a social media platform. That’s why we write. There’s no hidden agenda, no ulterior motive.
Writing is proof of life, a collection of tangible signs that human thinking occurred and the conclusions it reached. Often, the best we can come up with is “Look at me!”, which is a roundabout way of saying “Please love me!”
And sometimes, the first person your writing will connect you to is yourself, which might come as a surprise if you never thought you had a voice. Or if you had lost it for a while, as was my case during the five years depression silenced it.
This is internal communication as you figure out what you’re thinking and how you feel about those thoughts so you can know yourself. Only then can the second step happen as you disseminate this information and make yourself known to others.
Because everyone wants to be seen.
Writing is a way of claiming your spot in the world, among peers, within a community of fellow humans who are similarly curious about life.
Included but not limited to Westerners with tech privilege, which is why mobile internet powers the developing world. Whether in New York or Dhaka, anyone with a cell phone can write online and post on social media, influencing the zeitgeist with words.
Your voice, your contribution to the global discourse is no less valid than that of someone with publishing experience. It is no less valuable than theirs but does it deserve the same attention?
Yes but there should be — but there currently isn’t — a catch: only as long as it respects the full human. This is where many go wrong and pawn their dignity for the sake of engagement, infusing their work with a self-pitying aura of icky desperation. It isn’t so much “Please, love me”! as it is “Look at how gross I am but I dare you to love me anyway!”, which does nothing for our collective neuroses or online morale.
Sure, it fascinates for a while but does it advance the plight of those our society refuses to accommodate? Instead of telling us how gross you believe you are, show us how you’re using that harsh self-judgment for self inquiry and the common good.
Don’t just connect the dots, draw a freehand picture that makes dots irrelevant, and change perceptions, starting with how you perceive yourself.
If you can think, you can write. And if you can also feel then you can write better. This isn’t always easy to navigate in the case of depression but it might just be that pondering your numbness in print will shift something. Writing as therapy is nothing new but writing online as group therapy is so how can we use sharing our experiences to advance mental health for all?
For copy to resonate, you have to inspire something in the reader, give them pause for thought, or maybe even awe them if you’re that good.
Then again, you could do absolutely none of the above and take a shortcut instead. If you’re after instant gratification, pitch two groups of humans against each other or simply shoot straight for the “Yikes!” factor. This is what many self-styled influencers excel at and why the internet is dumb; we let the ever-expanding sinkhole of doom swallow us for hours at a time as we mindlessly scroll filler content.
And then we come to, aghast, staring as a piece about how dropping your phone down the toilet after doing a generous number two has ruined someone’s life.
If that’s the pinnacle of our collective achievement, let us at minimum have a slow clap here as we give a standing ovation to those who ensnare us. They sell us TMI and we buy it because we’ve become intellectually incapable of selecting and classifying data.
Truth or relevance no longer come into play; if it’s in front of our eyeballs, few of us will have the reflex to look away.
Influencers never advertise themselves as such.
More than likely, they’re completely oblivious to their influence because they’re too busy thinking to navel-gaze ad nauseam. Trust you have found them when their copy gives your mind a workout and touches your heart. Perhaps they’ve only written one piece years ago, or you don’t agree with anything they say, or they’ve taken you completely by surprise.
But their words had a lasting, memorable impact on you.
And that impact has no replicable formula. It’s a combination of words, circumstances, happenstance, curiosity, and variable personal parameters. Sure, you can go get an MFA but that won’t guarantee talent or success, only student loans until you die.
Or you can be the former food service worker and political activist who humanizes poverty in America for the internet generation. Or you can be the high school dropout who pens the most offbeat novel in a few weeks and goes on to capture the heart and imagination of innumerable countries.
Because writing belongs to everyone and that includes you, no matter who you are or where you are at in life.
And if your words connect you to just the one other human, you too are an influencer, somehow.
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor living out of a suitcase in transit between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.