Two Ways to Save the World
My husband and I both work hard at two very different jobs.
Sometimes I compare my job as a writer to his and I wonder if I’m bringing enough value to the world and helping enough people.
You see, he works with a large nonprofit organization that helps vulnerable populations. His job is to help refugee families find safe housing and help save children from dangerous situations.
Meanwhile, I’m tooling around on the page, creating a fictional world inhabited by mermaids.
He’s saving lives, literally.
I’m saving lives, in literature.
Does this Work Matter?
As a result of comparing my work to his (and let’s be honest — as a result of simply being human), I sometimes have doubts about how important it is to finish my current writing project.
I wonder if anyone will care. Or worse, I worry if I’ll be criticized for putting this out there.
I know I’m not alone. I ask myself why I’m writing all the time. On good days, I think about my readers and how they’ve benefited from my writing in the past. But it’s hard to keep the people who will potentially benefit from my book (or any writing project) in mind when I’m alone, writing for hours on end.
I have doubts about the value of my continued writing all the time even though I can head over to Amazon to read dozens of positive reviews of my previous books. The proof that my books connect with readers is right there online. Still, I’m not always a paragon of confidence.
There are more days than I’d like to admit where it can be hard to find the motivation to keep going. I know that for emerging writers, these feelings of uncertainty can be even more crippling since they have very little feedback from their work.
In fact, many writers never even finish one book because they are paralyzed by self-doubt. They are afraid their books won’t connect with anyone — not even one person. And this fear is just one of a list of fears, including comparing themselves with other writers and worrying they come up short.
Here’s What to Ask Yourself
When I coach creative people, I ask, “what if your work helped just one person? What if your work connected with one person and colored their life with joy for one moment? What if it gave just one person a powerful connective experience, a sense that they aren’t alone?”
I want to know if one would be enough. For many people, it is. If their work connected with or helped just one other person in a meaningful way, they could keep going confidently.
Writing for One Person
What if by finishing your book, you could save the world? If that seems like an unrealistic suggestion, consider your book helping just one person cope, escape, connect, or hope.
In the first season of the 2006 NBC hit series Heroes, a mantra is repeated: “Save the cheerleader, save the world.”
It tapped into a truth: we help the world by helping one person at a time. We might even save the world by saving one person at a time. As writers, we trade in the currencies of ideas, and ideas are powerful when it comes to helping and changing people.
For example, reading books got me through many a difficult, lonely, depressed, or anxious time in my life. Books are friends when then the people I love aren’t around. I’ve learned, escaped, laughed, and cried with books. I’ve bonded with fellow bookworms and learned insights about them in book clubs. Have books saved my life? Maybe.
Nonfiction books have let me know I’m not alone. Fiction books have helped me escape when life gets too heavy. If the authors of those books had decided not to write, if they’d let self-doubt halt them, I wouldn’t have benefited from the ideas they shared. I do not doubt that my life would be diminished in many ways.
Envision the one person you are writing for, the one person who will connect deeply with your work. That’s all you have to do to maintain the confidence to keep writing.
The Secret to Success as a Writer
For my book, The Wealthy Creative, I interviewed two dozen inspiring and successful artists and writers about the habits and practices that led their creative success. The number one habit most commonly mentioned by these mentors was their practice of moving forward.
Successful writers keep writing. They persevere. They persist.
To keep working day in and day out, you’ve got to believe that your work is making a difference. It has to make a difference to you, and to that one person you’re envisioning writing for. You may not ever meet the person who is most moved by your work, but you have to believe they are out there.
We Are Changing Lives
As writers, our job is to give the reader a powerfully connective emotional experience. Hopefully, an idea or a book we write can change one reader’s life for the better. As Laura Tong writes in How To Find The Courage To Become An Unstoppable Writer,“Ideas can change lives,” but “What good are ideas if they stay locked up in your head?”
Whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction,to get that idea out of your head and onto the page, consider the value you are giving to at least one person.
- You might write a great recipe book that lets a family spend more quality time together.
- You might write a memoir that illuminates a time, place, and set of relationships people can learn from.
- You might write a novel that explores a question or topic people need more empathy and understanding about.
- You might write a how-to book that helps people have healthier bodies so they enjoy longer lives.
Even if your book helps or connects with only one person, it’s worth it, because one life enhanced can have a positive ripple effect on the world.
Write the book. Save the world. Start today.
How does it feel to write from the perspective of connecting with one person? Share your thoughts below in the comments.