I’ve written previously about how there’s a part of me that is content with writing for an audience of one, that if nobody else ever reads any of my stories or if my manuscripts never get picked up, that I’ll be okay. It’s not the exposure, I tell myself, it’s the experience, the growth, and the overwhelming sense of accomplishment that comes with simply ordering and laying down words onto a page. And that’s partly true.
I have a monthly newsletter where I talk about the craft of writing in a way that’s hopefully inspirational (you be the judge, dear reader), so I won’t wax all poetic about the craft of creating here. Rather, I’ll say something that might come across as totally unrelated but has inspired a newfound desire to be seen.
Over the past several months, I’ve incorporated exercise and a healthier diet into my regular regimen.
At first, there were little-to-no noticeable changes. I craved sugar more, and there was the occasional inner sadness when I opted for a “better-for-you” takeout option over a cheeseburger.
I made this change because there’s a realization that I’m almost in my mid-30s, and as I get older, my body will start to fall apart. In fact, “the decline” has already begun. I get random back pains now. Sometimes I twist my arm the wrong way, or I’ll do one of those old man grunts when I get up in the morning — you know the ones. I’m officially the age Batman has consistently been for over 80 years, and I am very much not in Batman shape.
I wanted to fix that, and I implemented changes into my routine that have, slowly but surely, led to noticeable differences in my physique months later. Along with these physical changes, I feel different. I’m more comfortable and at ease with myself now, more willing to be seen on Zoom calls at work and more open to engaging with complete strangers out in public. I feel less anxious. I also daydream about people reading my work more often.
And then I realized something.
For the longest time, I’ve felt unworthy of being seen. I’ve always desired for people to read my work, but whenever those desires would enter my head, a voice, deep down, would remind me that there was a fat chance of that happening. It would tell me that I’d be lucky if four people read a short story I wrote and even luckier if one of them found it a satisfactory use of their time. How I felt about my work was tethered to how I felt about myself, and it was completely worthless.
I don’t say this to evoke sympathy or fish for a pat on the back. It’s a realization. I didn’t feel like I deserved to be seen, and in turn, that my work didn’t deserve to be seen. This desire has always been with me, but I’m no longer bullying myself into burying that dream. I’m now coming around to the idea that, perhaps, maybe I can earn and deserve these things.
My wife and I have been watching this show on Hulu called The Dropout. For those unfamiliar, it’s a dramatization about Elizabeth Holmes, the wannabe multi-billionaire who built a medical tech company called Theranos off of a lie and the promise of a prototype that never worked. The story is equally insane and absolutely fascinating, and the privilege and sense of self that Holmes throws around to pull this massive scam is both frightening and hypnotizing. She comes across as the epitome of the dark side of life coaches and overzealous self-determination. One could argue that Liz Holmes is a person who believed in herself a little too much.
But I can’t help but look at her false empire and wonder, what’s my excuse?
Sure, Holmes came from even more privilege, money, and pedigree, but Theranos had nothing. She had a dream that she convinced others to buy into like some Silicon Valley pied piper, and even when she bullied her way into a deal with Walgreens, Theranos still didn’t have a working prototype.
I have short stories, a manuscript, and ideas and skeletal outlines for even more manuscripts. With writing, I can take something from my brain and transfer it to a page without the need for an extensive R&D department or science team. That’s certainly more available to me than Theranos had. If I want to be seen, it’s on me. Now that I’m out of my own way, it’s time to incorporate a new exercise into my regimen — learning to sell myself a little more. If I believe in my work, why shouldn’t I convince someone else?
Alternatively, if I see someone else putting their work out there, why shouldn’t I engage and help inspire them to reach higher?
We’re all in this together.