The Art of War might be a more apt title.
This post is written as a result of having read a post written by a complete stranger. Her post can be found here: http://lilyellyn.wordpress.com/2014/11/11/what-happens-when-you-go-viral-on-wanting-to-give-up/
The part that stirred me and got my fingers moving this morning was the following.
Being a successful writer is no longer about craft or talent or art. It’s not about having the deepest insights or the most profound observations to share. It’s often simply about who can shout the loudest. Like high school student council elections, success in the blogosphere is a popularity contest. It’s about who is the most provocative, who is the most visible on social media, who is the most aggressively self-promoting.
I confess that I frequently get angry with popular and successful writers whose blogs I find poorly written and uninspiring. I don’t believe in quantity over quality – in pushing points that don’t need to be made just to generate content. There are a million voices out there and there are many moments when I don’t think the world really needs mine. If all I’m doing is adding to the noise then I’d rather be silent.
I think the point that lept off the page at me was the point about pushing points that don’t need to be made.
Our microwave society has an ultra-brief attention span. New content must be created daily. Even vapid, pointless, unnecessarily divisive, ignorant, uninformed content. What’s worse is, the time and energy necessary to discuss, debate and debunk the vapid information is largely wasted. No one has the attention span to read a Tom Clancy novel anymore. We want tweets, status updates, and bumper stickers.
I, like the author, eschew the use of Twitter. I signed up for an account because it seemed like an obligation. But I never posted to it much. I didn’t think what I had for breakfast or how bad traffic was this morning were worthy of global attention. I am also unable to express true thought, complete with meaning, context, and insight, in 140 characters or less. Eventually, I just deleted it and moved on.
Where I think the author made the actual point, but perhaps did not internalize it, is in her thoughts regarding why she could not quit.
The reality is, we do not write these blogs for others. We would all like to hear that “echo” to which she refers, to let us know we hit something. But I think, in the end, whether we reach 10 people, 10,000 people, or 10,000,000 people, the point is simply that we write.
While I understand that the author has a strong desire to write for a living, and so perhaps her purpose is different, I think in general we simply have these things inside of us and we must let them go. It is in deciding whether what we want to say needs to be said, and to whom, and in what manner, that we separate ourselves from the twitterverse and Facebook status update junkies.
I write to make other people think. Not necessarily so that they will agree with me, but simply so they will contemplate things that are generally taken for granted. As I told my manager this morning, “Let’s not do things because that’s what we’ve always done. Let’s do them because it makes sense.” I write to ask the question, “Does this make sense?”
My final word to the author would be a simple one. If you have touched the lives of others, and in turn been touched by them, there is little else worth having in this life. Whether you reach a million, write a book, or remain some obscure blogger, is almost entirely irrelevant. You have thoughts. You have shared your thoughts, and by doing so impacted the life of another individual. Your legacy is undeniable and eternal. You made a ripple and forever altered the future in the process. That is really the only legacy worth talking about.
I understand wanting to make a bigger impact. I write about it all the time. But it is worth looking at what you have done in addition to, if not in place of, what you have not done. While pressing on towards the goal, don’t forget to appreciate where you are at this moment.
Lastly, Jim Carey was wrong. If you do all the things you’ve ever dreamed of, that is a fulfilling life. It may be that money and fame are not the answer (and I suspect that the fame colors the experience). But to do with your life exactly what you feel like doing with it in any given moment, is (and must be) the definition of happiness. If the freedom to do or not do anything that crosses your mind does not create happiness, then I submit that happiness is a meaningless word.