I Write Because it Changes Me

In the movie Shadowlands, C.S. Lewis (played by Anthony Hopkins) is told by a friend that, despite the mockery of his atheist colleagues, his prayers for his sick wife are having an effect.  Lewis, however, is not concerned with whether or not prayer “works” in altering the universe:

“I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God- it changes me.”

This is a powerful bit of self-honesty.  Lewis felt no need to respond to philosophical or theological objections to his actions.  He wasn’t praying to convince God, he was praying because he knew the value to him of this activity, regardless of the outcome.

I have made a point recently to remind myself of why I write; not to change my audience, but to change me.

There will never be a shortage of people who offer objections to ideas I put to paper, or critique the way I choose to communicate those ideas.  If my goal were to win over as many people as possible to my point of view, this would be incredibly stressful.  Every objection would require a response or a change in my future behavior. It’s not a particularly fun or productive way to live.

Feedback is wonderful.  It creates a connection between creator and consumer that results in better content.  But feedback is only helpful if it doesn’t make us bitter and we don’t worship it.  If it hurts us to hear and we begin to create things motivated entirely by the need to stick it to the “haters”, we’ll produce lower quality content and be less happy doing so.  If we overvalue feedback and rethink every word to predict every possible way in which it might be misinterpreted, we’ll produce boring content and have less fun in the process.  Both of these responses put the feedback of others in the drivers seat and you, the creator, in the passenger seat.  Don’t let that happen.

Take in feedback, enjoy it, laugh at it, use it, but don’t pay it too much attention.  Remind yourself that the reason you write (or read, or speak, or paint, or sing, or…) is because it changes you.