A few weeks ago, I asked my Twitter followers what they wanted me to write about on this blog.
I don’t do this often, though maybe I should. As stressful and distracting as social media can be at times, it’s an important channel for connecting with audiences and reminding readers that you, a person, are just like them. Out here trying to make your way in the world, hoping you know what you’re doing, or at least hoping you know how to pretend you do when you don’t.
Sometimes the best questions are the shortest — yet, somehow, the least straightforward.
“What is the point?”
I have thought about this question for a long time — okay, only weeks, but they have been very long weeks. And to be fully transparent, I might have waited a lot longer to write about this if I hadn’t suddenly been faced with so much stress and anxiety and uncertainty and doubt in my personal life that I began questioning my professional endeavors as well.
So a little while ago I was standing outside with my dog, who loves the cold weather, and I closed my eyes and let the wind chill my face as she ran around and I thought about how much I was going to have to write once we went inside.
And I started to dread even the thought of having to write anything. Because I didn’t want to. Not today. I wanted to hide under a blanket. I didn’t want to think. I didn’t want to face the pressure of having to come here and say things that mattered, things that might actually help someone.
But then I started thinking. What’s the point?
And I don’t think I came up with an answer. But I have, perhaps, formulated a theory.
Maybe the point of writing — the answer to the “why am I even doing this at all” question — isn’t as complex as we expect it to be.
I’m not one for the “fluffy” advice. I prefer to offer help that’s practical and straightforward, one that includes action steps and suggestions anyone anywhere can apply to their own lives.
But there are some questions related to our work, to our purpose as creators, that can’t be answered with that kind of approach.
If this year has taught me anything, it’s that there is a time for being realistic and rational. And then there is a time for being a little more abstract, if only to offer hope, to offer someone else — maybe even yourself — a reason to keep moving forward regardless of the obstacles in front of you.
I know what it’s like to question the purpose of sharing my words with the world. I know what it’s like because it’s something I struggle more and more with as the months pass by. It’s not that I don’t want to write. It’s not that I think writing might be pointless.
It’s that the more I do it, the more I find myself wondering why. Why do I sit down and make my thoughts available for other people to read? Where did this desire come from, and why do I hold onto it? Why does writing things down and hitting “publish” feel so right, so freeing, so … necessary?
For a long time I used to think I couldn’t or shouldn’t write about myself because people would think I was self-absorbed, that I only cared about or saw things through my own lens and that other angles didn’t matter. But I’m not closed-minded. I’m not self-obsessed. I’m a relatively private person. I don’t enjoy talking about myself.
But I do, however, enjoy the opportunity to share what I have experienced and learned for the sole purpose of helping or comforting or inspiring other people. I write about my struggles as a writer, I admit that I am struggling when I am struggling because not enough writers do. And more should. More need to. Because there are too many writers out there who are struggling and don’t know if that’s okay or normal. They don’t know what it means. They aren’t sure they even want to know.
Something I am always quick to remind fellow writers, and myself, is that it is completely normal — healthy, even — to question why you do the things you do. We can’t grow if we don’t take the time to stop and ask ourselves if what we are currently doing is pointing us in a direction we are okay with going in.
But this kind of questioning can become overwhelming very quickly. Because we WANT to look at the big picture. We WANT to know where we’re headed and that we are doing what we are “meant” to be doing.
So if you’re asking yourself “What’s the point?” Try to isolate it. Don’t think about who you’re trying to impress. Don’t think about the lifestyle you’re trying to live. Think about how writing makes you feel. Think about how you want it to make other people feel. Don’t think about your job, about your salary. Think about what writing means to you personally.
Maybe the point of all this — the reason for writing, despite the circumstances — is different for everyone. Maybe everyone has their own reasons for putting their own ideas into words, and therefore, if you’re out there searching for meaning in your work, it’s not a job or a career you’re after, but a desire that lies only deep within yourself.
Maybe you already know why you write, and you just aren’t sure whether or not it matters.
Like if you only ever write stories for yourself that never reach anyone, is that okay? Are you wasting all your time writing for nothing? Or are you fulfilling your purpose just by telling the stories you want to tell on your own time and not worrying about whether or not anyone else ever reads them?
I think so. I think as long as you’re writing because it fills some kind of void that might otherwise exist in your life, then you’re doing everything you should be doing. You’re doing the right thing. Because sometimes writing IS selfish. Sometimes we do it because WE need it to. Because WE need it.
If you want to share what you have to say with the whole world, then do it. Whether it’s because you want to make the world a better place or because you just want to feel like you’re making some kind of small difference, don’t hold yourself back because nothing is certain.
Do it because it’s what you have your heart set on doing.
Do it because it’s the thing that reminds you that life is meaningful even when everything around you feels as though it is falling apart.
Write with purpose, regardless of what that purpose might be. You don’t even have to know exactly what that purpose is for you yet, and it’s okay if you don’t.
In the meantime, just write. Keep writing. Not because you have to, but because it’s something you have to hold onto. Something that makes you feel alive. Something that makes you shine from the inside out, even on your darkest days.
What is the point of writing?
It’s to keep going. In the end, isn’t that what matters most — that despite everything, you kept going?
I hope your words help you to keep going. I know mine do.
Write on. Always. 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 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.