A few weeks ago, I received a direct message on Instagram after I had posted a poll asking about what to post next: “this or this?” One of my friends replied and said “I’d like to hear your thoughts for people who love to write but are afraid there are already too many voices out there.”
Ooof. I’ve been avoiding this one for a bit, because it’s something I feel clear down inside myself. What is the point, anyway? What is the point of writing words and putting them online and hoping someone reads them and is impacted by them? I’m just little old…me. I’m no one special. I usually feel like I know nothing about anything and no one will ever want to hear what I have to say.
So that’s the first thing, I guess, if you’re afraid there’s already too many voices: you’re not alone. I’m guessing that is only partly helpful for you, but maybe it’s better than nothing. It’s like that Billy Joel song: “Yes, they’re sharing a drink they call loneliness, but it’s better than drinkin’ alone.”
This month I caved and pre-ordered Shauna Niequist’s newest book just a few days before it launched. (I say caved because I have developed a habit of pre-ordering books and I need to stop and save some money instead. But I found an Amazon gift card.) The book is called I Guess I Haven’t Learned That Yet, and I started it one evening and read straight through the rest of it the next morning while Marshall made his traditional Saturday morning breakfast.
Shauna Niequist writes beautifully. She mostly writes about her normal life, and what she’s learning (or in this case, learning what she hasn’t learned!) She talks about scrunching her shoulders, and spring, and hospitality, like in this section that reads so welcomingly you can almost touch it:
“For a person who loves gathering and feeding people and every part of hospitality, I was determined to keep connecting, and for us that meant a picnic blanket and a sheet pan. In New York, we couldn’t gather indoors, but we could gather outside and so we did—over and over and over—with a picnic blanket and a sheet pan of snacks.
“I have all manner of fancy cheeseboards—marble and slate and pretty ceramic. But here’s the thing: when you’re carrying food down three flights of stairs and then setting it on the ground, a sheet pan works a lot better than slate or marble.
“Sometimes those happy hour cheeseboards were fancy—brie and lavender honey and prosciutto and rose. And sometimes it was like Jonathan had a half a box of crackers, Kate had apples and popcorn, and Kyndi had a few cans of sparkling water. I went through a prolonged queso phase, and one day Julia had leftover pizza dough that she baked into delicious garlicky breadsticks.”
I bring up Shauna’s work, and this particular excerpt because it always inspires me when I face this question of why I should write. It’s funny, because she is definitely a much better writer than me. She is better at adjectives, and seeing a large narrative, and many many more things. Maybe I should feel intimidated.
But she writes about her normal life, and it is somehow beautiful and helpful and that feels revolutionary.
So I guess my answer to that Instagram DM is less the “There is only one you! The world needs your voice!” Even though I think that is true, in many ways.
My answer is more this: your writing may not be the best or the most unique. But what if you writing could help someone else? Help them see something beautiful they hadn’t noticed before? Encourage them to watch the way God is working in their life through tomato plants or airport runs or sobbing nights? Challenge them to consider a perspective that previously they would have brushed off? Do you think it would be worth it?
I guess I somehow think it will be, even though there’s so far to go and so much I still don’t know. I want to keep learning and writing and trying to share it.
I hope you do, too.