Jan 20 2015
Last week, I read a Washington Post article about Katry Rain a/k/a Dennis Williams, who committed suicide after sending an email to a handful of reporters, stating, essentially that since no one was interested in what he had to share, he found no point in sharing anything more and was choosing to die.
Depression is a hell of an illness and I suppose narcissism is, too.
I’m always interested in people who write and speak and seem to do so only to be heard by others. Maybe I lack self-confidence, but I find myself grateful when people listen to what I say and read what I write, however infrequent or few and far between those people might be. Writing, to me, is not a one-sided process wherein I share and others listen and learn. It’s more conversational than that.
I write (privately and in a few blog-type spaces) because I want to. Because I have a thought or an idea that keeps poking up and writing makes that thought go away, at least temporarily. I don’t track pageviews. I know when someone has read something only when they comment or they email. And those things happen rarely. If I’m honest, there is a great deal of narcissism in posting things to the internet to share with anonymous folks. But if there’s an aspect of narcissism, there’s also a desire to spark a small sense of community; of connectedness.
There is nothing new under the sun, but there are countless ways to express ideas, to build images with words, to move your audience (whoever they might be) along a path. Good writing grabs you and sucks you under water until you breathe only the air that the author intended you to breathe. It’s a little like drowning. But, it’s an art and on some level art depends on an audience to consume it.
That said, the audience doesn’t have to a be a million people. Some days, the audience is just me. I have things I’ve written that I will never share and I re-read them just for me, just to admire what I’ve captured. It’s a lot like masturbation.
But, I’m intrigued by people who are driven not just to create but to be consumed by others. People who feel as though they have discovered something heretofore unknown, something remarkable that could change the course of human lives. How many people feel that way and actually have done so? The fact that at some point in your life, you have found “the way” reflects nothing so much as your own evolution. It does not reflect some great eternal truth, and where it does that same truth is bound to have been expressed by hundreds of people before you, and likely better illustrated. Writing because you found some philosophy, some important guiding principles that have led you to happiness or fulfillment is all well and good and may be of importance to you. But if you expect that human misery and suffering can be cleared up by someone reading your thoughts, you’re a fool. People have been trying to do that since the beginning of the written word, just look at the many, many religious texts we have. What, then, can writing do? Document us. Challenge us. Move us. Connect us.
Like a lot of kids who grew up reading and writing incessantly, adults always told me how good I was: how my writing moved them; how they cried. They told me I would write the next great American novel. Then I grew up and entered a college classroom with hundreds of other people who were told the same thing. I’m enough of a realist to know that writing the “great” novel is a damn impossibility and in any case, I’m not driven to do it and I never was. I enjoy writing but I couldn’t care less whether I’m writing a letter to a friend or a poem. My goal is always the same – to share myself, in the truest way I am able.
And I don’t expect millions of people to want what I have to share. I don’t expect *hundreds* of people to want it. I have made connections and continue to make connections with some smaller number of people, which feels wonderful, of course but also isn’t the point. I write because I want to.