Most writers feel a gnaw to write; an impulse to put words to life’s curiosities; ironic happenings; and collective experiences.
But sharing our writing with the world can wage an emotional toll on us. And doing so without the promise of financial gain causes many writers to either keep the best of their work tucked away or the most interesting of their stories unwritten.
This is not because writers write to become rich. Yet, it’s natural to wonder, “why bother?” if you’re not seeing financial inroads or a quickly growing audience.
If you find yourself struggling to keep writing and publishing — here are seven non-financial reasons I’ve found to continue spreading words with the world.
1. To form an opinion. The world is confusing. Even when a writer thinks they know how they feel about something, it’s often not until he or she puts fingers to the keyboard and starts constructing sentences that they begin to see the flaws or gaps in their thinking. Writing allows us to formulate our thoughts and figure out how we feel about society, culture, relationships, politics, or even the latest celebrity gossip. Part of this is because good writing requires clear thinking. Through the process of writing, you take a seat across from your topic of choice and hold up a light to see every angle, crevice, and corner of your viewpoint. This doesn’t mean the world magically makes sense. But it does allow you to uncover how you feel about something happening in the world.
2. To hold yourself accountable. I started publishing on Medium last year to develop a habit of writing. The platform gave me a way to share my work. And knowing I was publishing work required me to, well, do the work. While there is a benefit to being fluid with one’s approach to sharing your art — too much fluidity creates the breeding ground for too many excuses and too little work. Writing is a practice of discipline just as much as it is a mechanism for magic. You can’t tap into the magic unless you make time for the craft. And you will struggle to consistently make time for the craft if you’re not leaning on platforms or people to keep you accountable.
3. Because it’s your form of self-expression.
A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song. — Maya Angelou
Everyone has their outlet; the thing they do to express themselves. Writing is a dance where we find ourselves two-stepping between our truest selves and the “shoulds” of how we show up on a page. It’s not always easy to find your voice and write with truth, but when you do, you experience a profound cathartic release. Expressing yourself through writing also allows you to embrace who you are by peeling back your perspective or making friends with your story.
4. Because someone else needs it. During a particularly demotivating month in my publishing journey, I received an email from someone who read one of my articles. She wrote to thank me for sharing my story, saying how my perspective helped her. That email was a reminder that our impact as writers is not always as quantifiable as a paycheck. Sometimes it comes in the form of an email or a reminder from a friend that your words helped them. When it comes to writing, the signs that what you’re doing is worthwhile can be sporadic. But as cliché as it may sound, your gifts and proclivities were given to you to bless another person. Don’t stop sharing your work until you find out whom.
5. Because it forces you to move past fear. Creativity requires vulnerability. From the time you decide to write something to the moment you finally share that thing with the world, each step of writing leads to a new level of splitting yourself open. But by being courageous with your creativity, you find the power to be courageous with other aspects of your life. If you can share your story with the world and not shrivel up and die, well perhaps you can say “I love you” first. Perhaps you can ask for the promotion. Perhaps you can do all the other things you’ve been willing yourself to do. It’s at least worth a try.
6. To tap into humanity and the divine. Creativity is a function of our imagination, one of the distinguishing traits of being human. At the same time, being creative allows us to channel the divine. According to spiritual text, humans were created in the image and likeness of the ultimate creator, God. Whether you call It God or not, writers long for the moments of magic where their thoughts and words flow out with supernatural ease and beauty; where our art extends beyond what we believe our human minds capable of creating.
7. To become a better creative. I recently heard someone say, “your body of work is only as good as the projects you finish.” It made me realize that the quantity of what I put out there matters in more ways than the quality of individual pieces. That is, the strength of my writing will get better the more I finish the work I start. And, if I’m honest, if my writing is not going anywhere or will not be shared with anyone — I significantly decrease my likelihood of finishing individual pieces. The best thing I’ve learned to do for my craft is to make time for it and the best thing I’ve learned to do for my body of work is share more of it.
Your body of work is only as good as the projects you finish.
If writing is your outlet, you must do it. You must do it regardless if you’re getting paid handsomely for it. Regardless if you receive awards or gain a bazillion followers off of it. You must do it because your spirit craves for you to do it.
And if you’re doing it behind closed doors, without ever sharing any of your work with the world — you simply won’t be doing it as consistently or as courageously.
So, keep spreading the love.