Have you ever wished you could change the world? Many writers do. Words are like superpowers. They make you believe you can do ANYTHING.
Changing the world through writing is a common goal; it makes perfect sense why you want to do it. It’s not the most realistic, or helpful, ambition, though.
It’s OK to want to make a difference
Words are powerful tools, and if we use them wisely and correctly, for the right reasons, they make it possible for us to impact the world in a big way. There are people out there who will tell you the world is a big place, and that you’re one person who’s not that great and doesn’t have much to offer. It’s true that the world is pretty big, and you’re just one person living in it. But there is nothing wrong with wanting to use your mastery of words for the greater good.
Everybody wants to help somebody else. It might be your greatest motivation for doing what you do and writing what you write, and that’s OK. Just keep in mind that making a difference has many signs and definitions depending on who you are, what you’re writing and who you’re trying to reach. It doesn’t always result in instant gratification, or kind words or feedback thanking you for your hard work. It can be an overwhelming and discouraging goal, but it’s a decent place to start.
Your audience is not made up of 7 billion people
When you first start out as a writer, it’s typical to want to “go big.” You want to reach as many people with your words as possible. You have a lot of important things to say, after all! It’s important to be careful not to try reaching too big, though. Every writer has an audience, but that audience does not include every single person on the planet – whether you wish you could manage that big of a reach or not.
This is why you need to make sure you’re writing for a specific audience. Because if you have it in your head that you’re going to be able to reach everyone in the world, it’s going to be much harder for you to get past feeling like you’re failing or that you aren’t working hard enough. My blog reaches writers, particularly newer writers or those who are trying to get published. Looking at the big picture, that’s a very small segment of people around the world. But I’m able to reach a larger percentage of those people, because I’m not trying to get my messages out to everyone all at once. It’s just not possible.
Impact is often invisible
Writers in general often tend to fall prey to the illusion that their words are going to touch lives, challenge beliefs and change attitudes. A much more realistic expectation, though harder to comprehend, is the idea that, yes, you’re going to make some kind of impact through your writing. But you’re either not going to know about it, or a very small subset of the population is going to take the time to tell you about it. Making an impact on people’s lives is often invisible, with little to no praise or reward. That does not mean it isn’t worth the effort.
You will probably never come into contact with most of the people who read your stories, and the people whose lives you influence in a positive way, for the most part, will never tell you so. You should write with the belief that your words are helping someone. Even if it’s only one person, and you never hear about how you’ve helped them, it still counts. You should still write with a purpose, and let yourself enjoy it.
You are one person in a big world. Your words matter, and they have the power to make a difference. But aiming small is the way to go. Your words don’t have to reach millions to change the world. Set out to change one person’s world, even if you never know about it.
Stop trying to change the world. Start trying to do good for small parts of it. Write because you love it, because you care and because you have things to say. Those who need to hear it, those who want to read it, will appreciate it.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.