This post is directly inspired by this recent post by blogger M.A. Crosbie. Her site is M.A. Crosbie and I think before you go any further, you should read her post and then give her a follow.
In her emotional and open post about some of her struggles, she was kind enough to tag me as one of four bloggers that she believes “share inspirational advice, writerly wisdom, and intriguing book reviews.” So first off, M.A., I must say thank you. I can’t tell you how utterly flattered I was to receive not only such a compliment, but also that you linked back to my blog. It was humbled and inspiring (obviously, as it is resulting in this post :P). Yet it wasn’t just that honor that inspired me, but your ideas; more so, your fears:
“My default thought when it comes to blogging is that I don’t have anything useful to contribute. I’m just a lil’ snowflake squeaking in the midst of a blizzard. There are far more interesting blogs and topics out there, and better writers to do the writing.”
After reading that line, I had a few reactions. First, I was nodding my head. I have the exact same fears. And I know a few others who have expressed the same. Sometimes it is so crippling that a person won’t post on their blog because they don’t feel they have anything to contribute, because someone else has already written it and written it better. And if they haven’t, somebody else will. Yet even if someone conquers that hurdle, often times their post will begin with some sort of caveat, explaining why they are writing that post, even though they have just spent a paragraph explaining all the reasons why they shouldn’t be writing it or qualifying why they are anyway (I am very guilty of this).
That reaction led to my second reaction, which snowballed into this blog post: you matter. I matter. We matter. So many times, I’ve posted something on my blog and I’ve wondered why anyone would want to read it, whether it is a life update or writing struggles or just a story I wanted to share. I’ve had to mentality talk myself into posting it, even though I felt I didn’t deserve to, because who am I to write about my own life? Who am I to give advice about writing when rejection has been my constant ally? Who am I to write quirky book reviews? Who am I when compared to all these other amazing and successful human beings?
The answer: I’m still me. I’m still the stubborn dreamer, the perserverant writer, the stressed out pseudo-adult, the nerd-out-of-the-closet. And my voice, my words, my opinions, despite my own reservations and my belief that, in comparing myself to others, I’m always found wanting; they matter. I matter. And it’s important to recognize that.
You see, this blog, it is an outlet for me that is very important. Sure, I could simply journal, but I know myself well enough to know journaling isn’t a consistent enough medium for me personally. By posting it on a blog, I’m held accountable. Because people read my blog. People follow it. Not only do I use my blog to help me work through whatever is happening at that moment in my life, I also hope that someone might stumble upon a post and it helps them. Or it makes them laugh. Or it makes them think. It makes them respond, in some fashion. Perhaps they’ll comment or we’ll share a joke; become closer, even though we’re strangers. But at the end of the day, I blog for me. I blog because writing is my most natural, my most organic, form of communication and writing in this way helps me stay sane. It helps me process and helps me improve as a person. Others just happen to get to read and experience that process along to way.
Sure, there are blogs much more popular than mine and writers much better than me. That’s life. There will always be someone superior to you; someone better at sports, better at multitasking, better at writing. Yet there is a lot we don’t see. Perhaps that parent you always compare yourself to–that perfect Mom with flawless hair and well-behaved kids–perhaps she cries herself at night because she knows her uptightness causes her to not be as close to her kids as you are with yours, and she’s jealous of that. Or perhaps her childhood sucked and she works endlessly to make sure she does the best thing for her kids, yet it looks flawless to you. Maybe she had a great childhood and is simply emulating that. Maybe she got lucky.
Another example: you follow a blogger whose sentences seem outlined in gold, each so beautiful it could be a stand-alone poem and make millions. They talk about the latest NY Times Bestseller they wrote and about the inspiration they just got from the videogame they binged on, because they don’t have to go to the day-job. They are living the dream. They have 10,000 followers and while you love reading their blog, you don’t see how you could write about your successful short story, compared to that. Who would care? Why would it matter? Yet who knows how many rejection letters weigh down the floorboards underneath their bed. Who knows how long they spent on that blog post, rewriting words and phrases until their nails were chewed away, stressed to the max of constantly trying to impress thousands. Who knows how many stories were rejection. Who knows how many years they spent working at a job they loathed, but paid enough to allow them to write in the evenings. Who knows the full story.
We can’t know everything about the people we compare ourselves to, no matter what aspect in our lives we’re comparing: work, family, writing, health, beauty, relationships. Someone may seem superior to you and maybe they are, in theory. Maybe they have done two-a-day practices for the past ten years when you only played on the weekends. Maybe they have sacrificed a social life to hone on their craft. Maybe someone is really good at appearances and the parts of their life where they struggle–the part that is always on display in your life, yet you never see in theirs–they just happen to hide really well. Or maybe they are just really lucky, have good genes or just did the right thing at the most opportune time. Sure, you may compare yourself to someone and see them as superior and that may be true. Yet that doesn’t mean they think they are superior. That doesn’t mean you know the full story.
And superior is in no way synonymic to worth.
To be reminded that so many writers and bloggers are insecure, nervous or feel “not good enough” to write their own experiences, thoughts, opinions, dreams, goals, stories, failures on their blogs was a sad reminder. It’s something we shouldn’t experience. It is something no one should experience. There are so many bloggers whose posts I love and yes, I think they are better bloggers than me, whether its comparing follower count, the frequency of which they post, the quality of their posts, etc. Yet I would be so disheartened if they stopped posting because they were constantly comparing themselves and didn’t find worth in their own work. By doing so, I would feel robbed of the posts I’ve come to enjoy so much. But worse, they would be robbing themselves of their own expressions, the chance to impact someone else positively and continuing to learn about themselves and grow.
You are worthy. I’m worthy. Comparing ourselves to others and putting ourselves down isn’t healthy. You should only compare to learn, meaning that you look at what you’re doing, compare that to someone else and then use that as motivation, inspiration, an example, to improve. Not because you have to, but because you want to. As bloggers, we shouldn’t be afraid of what we say and question our worth or the worth of our words. Hell, as people, who shouldn’t let our comparisons to others hinder us or breed fear or self-loathing. Everyone has something useful to contribute. Everyone has a voice that deserves to be heard and listened to.
So thanks, M.A., for not only inspiring this blog post, but for having the courage to be so open in your own blog post and the courage to write it, despite feeling that you don’t have anything to contribute. I’m hear to tell you that you do, despite my gut feeling to qualify that statement with the accompanying, “even though I’m this random 23-year-old struggling young professional.” That qualification isn’t necessary, just as your fears–all of our fears–that we don’t have something worthy to contribute are unnecessary. Write those blog posts. Write those novels. Chase those dreams, writely or otherwise. Be fearless. Be heard. We, and our voices, matter.