The Quest for Significance

Why are writers so afraid?

I seem to face a demagogy of unfounded and unexplainable fears throughout a given week, and I just don’t understand. Why the barrage? Why can’t I just enjoy life and live in the moment and stop. worrying. worrying. worrying? It’s like a tick is scratching away at my brain. I don’t give it my full attention, but still it’s there, like a clock: tick-tock. There’s something wrong here. Tick-tock. You’re unsettled. Tick-tock. What if all you’re doing is for nothing? Tick-tock. You’re running out of time. Tick-tock. You’re not living in reality.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

And I’m tired. I’m tired of the mind-attacks. I’m tired of constantly doubting myself. I’m tired of forgoing the enjoyment of those perfectly crafted moments in life because I’m left stranded in another moment in the past or the future, or in another world, even. What could have been or what could be. How will my character get out of this situation? Why was that last scene I wrote so angsty? Was that the right direction, or will it ruin the whole story? Will I ever get it right? Will I ever get my life right?

Around and around it goes. And I write. And I live my life. But I live in the tension of what is not yet. Of what if, what if, what if. Of unfulfilled desires and dreams and passions. I think writers, and artists in general, are so driven by significance that if they believe they are not making an impact in the world they automatically feel like a failure. We are the ones who bring beauty to broken people, who awaken dreams, who stir hearts, right? So why can we not contentedly sit with our loved ones and offer deep soliloquies about how the stars dance to the tune of the night, while those loved ones push deeper into our arms and sigh in perfect bliss at the exquisiteness of our creative genius and undying passion? For it seems that only in the words on our pages, or in our art, that our true hearts shine forth. And even that is not enough. It’s never as exquisite as it once was in our minds. And on top of that, it seems no one cares enough to take the time to delve into our inner worlds that spill like blood onto blank pages.

So why do we keep doing it?

Why can’t we be who we so desire to be deep inside?

Will our stories, our art, ever matter?

I think, at the root of our discontent, lies the belief that no matter what we do, no matter the successes we find or the failures we face, we ourselves are insignificant. It’s like we’re just waiting for someone to finally strip away all the facades and reveal that—oh, it’s just…you. I think we’re afraid that our passions aren’t as important as they feel and our fears and desires are just plain silly.

But friends, this is the lie.

The truth is that each of us is incomparably beautiful, significant, glorious even. But we’ve let fear steal our identity and keep us stuck in those what if time loops. What if I just lived my life instead of pouring myself into the writing of this novel? What if I had gotten a degree in this field so that I’d actually be successful right now? What if I gave more time to helping those in need or building a family instead of living in this fantasy in my mind? What if the world doesn’t need another writer?

Maybe it doesn’t. But you do. If writing causes you to spill your guts and discover truth about yourself, God, and the world, it matters. Yes, you will live in tension. The tension of an unfinished story (in more ways than one), the tension of not knowing how it will all turn out, the tension of questioning everything once in a while. The tension of being in process, just like your projects. But it is all significant. See, when one of us is vulnerable, it opens a door for another soul to share more of themselves. Vulnerability exposes what is hidden and beautiful, expels loneliness, brings unity and understanding. Because so much of our brokenness is the same. You need your novel. And more than likely, someone else does

When you can’t understand why you relate more and pour more into your fictional characters than you do the tangible people in your life, don’t be ashamed. And realize that your story is your heart. That is why you can’t let it go. See, we love our characters and experience life with them because we give them our deepest desires; we make them feel our deepest aches and losses. Writing our stories is our way of tending our own hearts, and I think this is the most important thing we can do. Those who tend their own hearts will undoubtedly leave a mark on others’. Sometimes the hardest work is not sacrificing for the needy but delving into the nooks and crannies of our own stories. Writing and art is our way of doing this. It is often brutal and can feel like a prison, but the process will free us if we let it.

So press on, dear friends, and don’t hold back. As you change and grow with your stories and your art, the world will see.

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