I had a story published a few weeks ago that broke me to write. I’ve never had a story impact me like that.
I went for a walk after I finally submitted it, after I cried and bled and lost hours to the flow state of writing to lift my head and realize it was dark out, after reading it and understanding it was good, and I thought: sometimes we’re lucky enough to tell those stories that push our limits, and the fact that this one shattered me is why it’s so good. And maybe that’s how you know it’s an important story to tell in this era of so much noise, that it’s worth the breaking for.
And then it came out, and it was completely different than the story I’d written. And it didn’t have the impact, in fact it disappeared into all the noise like a whisper. That hurt almost as much as the writing of it.
And I finally admitted this outrageously selfish fear to myself:
I’m afraid of insignificance.
And I’m tired of hustling myself, of trying so hard. I’m afraid my hardest isn’t enough. I’m battered by the thought that my ideas are sub-par.
Writing is a horribly vulnerable exposure of the merits of your own mind.
I’m scared that I’ll wake up one day and realize that I spent my adult years hunched over a computer spinning stories that no one read, that were endlessly tweaked by well-intentioned editors until my voice disappeared, while all the writers who made it were exploring the world on assignments from National Geographic and the New York Times, writing all the things that mattered and left a mark on people’s psyches.
I’m afraid I don’t have the guts to pursue my big ideas. That I’ll keep doing the easy things while the big, blinding, intimidating-as-hell ideas circle my periphery until I finally let them go with a hot wave of regret.
And then one single person reaches out to say that a story mattered to them. In that moment, it is worth the breaking for. And I know that I’ll never escape writing, even if my stories don’t go viral and I can’t break the big bylines, because it’s what I go to sleep thinking about and what I wake up thinking about. And I know that this low will inevitably be followed by a high, that feeling of lifting your head from something to realize that you were so deeply immersed, so deeply present, that you forgot about yourself.
And even in this age of noise, there is no such thing as insignificance if what you created touches even a few people.
The important stories have never been the easy ones.