Writing by itself is simply communication.
When I pick up pen and paper, I have ideas inside I want to bring out. In this process, I do two things:
- I express myself.
- I talk to someone.
Although I do both of these things at the same time when I write, it is important to see their distinction especially when I want to be very intentional about how I communicate. When I am in express mode, I don’t try to edit myself. I just try to be as honest as possible. But when I shift to talk mode, that’s when I start to question how I first expressed my ideas. I become an editor trying to put myself in the shoes of the person I am trying to connect to. I want to make myself as clear as possible. But no matter what mode I am in, I am sure that I want one thing when I write: I want to be heard.
At the core of being a writer is wanting to be heard. That’s it. Writing is not about being published or getting an award. Those are nice to have. But they are not the point of writing. Writing is simply self-expression and communication, and in the middle of both of them is a psychological desire to be heard.
And so every writer needs to ask themselves how much they want that need to be fulfilled. Yes, how much. This is a question of quantity.
How many people does a person need to be heard?
Five? Ten? A hundred? A thousand? A million?
What does it takes to feel seen, listened to, heard?
The reason why I believe this is important to ask oneself as a writer is that your answer to the question of quantity defines how much you are willing to sacrifice to finally feel heard. Because there is a difference—a huge difference— between expressing yourself to one person and expressing yourself to a thousand. In the latter, you stay in talk mode a bit longer, you tend to censor things you wanted to say but ought not to just because the stakes are higher.
The funny thing about this question of quantity is that if we really think of it, most of the time, we only need one person listening to us really well in order to feel that we are heard. And even a funnier thought is that that person can be oneself. We are made up of at least two people inside us, and we talk to him or her every time. How we communicate with this person within us is far more important than how we communicate with the rest of the world. I strongly think that the best writers ever to walk this planet are writers who were able to listen and talk to that person within them most effectively.
So why do we need other people to feel heard? This is a question I am still pondering about. It is a question that also prompts me to doubt the very purpose of a platform such as this newsletter. Do I really need to send a missive to a handful of people every week to feel seen and heard?
I don’t know. You tell me.
Perhaps I will feel heard if you reply to this email and tell me your thoughts.