What are your words worth?
Seriously. When you publish something online, do other people care?
The answer is yes. And no. And it depends. Because, let’s be honest: a lot of people won’t ever read anything you write, and won’t feel like they’re missing out on anything. It’s not your fault. It’s just impossible to reach every single person on the planet in your lifetime.
I think too many writers base how “worthy” their work is on others’ opinions, comments, and various forms of reaction (or lack thereof).
Is that the digital age’s fault? Not necessarily. But the constant need for instant gratification and to be “noticed” online certainly hasn’t helped.
Listen. I’m a millennial. I got my first phone before starting high school. I’ve been on Facebook since I was 15. I’ve never lived in a world without the internet.
But being a writer in a digital environment means that I cannot depend on others’ feedback to fuel my work ethic. And neither can you.
I understand there are days you get disappointed when the response to your latest post or tweet doesn’t generate the responses you expected. Honestly, that’s pretty much normal for a lot of people.
However, if you’re letting that stop you from creating content … you have a problem.
I see this question too often: “How do I know if my stories are good without instant feedback?” This question is extremely problematic. Because it implies you’re going to get feedback on your writing at all — and that you need someone else to validate your effort before you can continue working.
Yes, at some point during the writing process, feedback is essential.
But not if you’re sitting alone in front of your laptop with an unfinished story in front of you, thinking, “Hmm. I wonder if this is even worth finishing.”
The reason many writers don’t finish is because they’re waiting for someone to tell them their words are worth pursuing. And that doesn’t make sense!
Struggling with self-motivation and relying on interest and passion to drive your work forward are very difficult for many of you. I do recognize that. I wish I could do more at this time to help — because I know that sometimes, as much as you do want to write more, you just can’t find a reason to. You aren’t broken. You just can’t see the worth of your words where you’re at right now.
Maybe we can work on getting better at that. More on that later.
If you’re feeling like your words aren’t worth anything to anyone, there’s something I want you to know. A few things, I suppose.
First, keep in mind that just because someone doesn’t express directly to you how much your words mean to them, doesn’t mean they aren’t affected by them.
You’ll probably spend the majority of your time as a writer wondering what people think of your words. Because not everyone will share their responses with you — especially the positive responses. It’s not because they don’t care. They just don’t share.
Second, never forget that your words won’t ever mean anything to anyone if they don’t mean something to you. Words become worthy the moment they’re worthy to their creator. If you’re writing something you don’t see the point in writing, don’t expect someone else to come along and contradict you.
Now, this doesn’t mean that self-doubt warrants worthlessness. You can feel bad about something you’ve written and still believe it was worth writing. I still remember the first novel I ever wrote. I knew it wasn’t a good book. But it meant the world to me because it was my first. To me, it was worth something, even though only a few people ever read it (or so they say — who really knows?).
Third, you don’t know the impact the thing you publish now might have much later on, even if it’s not getting attention now. This happens at the company I work for all the time. I’ll write an article, it won’t get a substantial amount of hits, I’ll shrug and move on. Then a few weeks or months later, out of nowhere, it will start getting attention. It doesn’t matter the reason. Just because it doesn’t seem to resonate with someone instantly doesn’t mean it never will.
You are a writer, which means you have the potential to one day find yourself in a position of influence over a large audience. There will always be people who disagree with you and say your work isn’t good (or worse, that they could have written it better). That doesn’t mean what you wrote is worthless. It means people have opinions, and taking them personally is a waste of emotional energy.
Some people are motivated by external accountability. You need to hear someone tell you that what you’re doing is good, and to push you and remind you to keep going.
Unfortunately, you won’t always be able to find someone to take on that role for you. And in those tough moments, you need to do your best to remember that no matter what you’re writing, it’s worth finishing. Because you’re writing it. You could not have even started at all — but you did. Now you should keep going. Just think how proud you’ll be when you finally get it done.
Your words matter. They always will. No matter what.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.