One time, in graduate school, during a discussion about ‘audience’, I asked my classmates if they thought writers had a responsibility to their readers. At the very least, shouldn’t they try to use their writing to change people’s limiting beliefs?
There was a lot of strange writing happening at that Chicago Private Arts grad school I went to. Some of it was pretty abusive, bordering on sick. A lot of it seemed to be aimed at alienating the reader. Even more of it was just lazy and self indulgent.
The response of my classmates surprised me at the time. Most laughed at the statement. Some openly scoffed. No kidding—they snorted and sniffed like they were saying, Piss off. Someone actually said “Fuck the reader.” Another said that, “Artists had a responsibility to their art and nothing more.” The teacher Amen-ed that last one.
That was a long time ago and I’m not sure what happened to any of those people. But for those of you who really want to write, here’s something for you to consider: If you don’t want to change belief then why the hell are you writing?
There are plenty of other, easier ways to express yourself. All day long, every day. And they give instant feedback and gratification. But writing is unique. It takes a special kind of dedication, determination and a lot of energy. It utilizes communication—a very complex and powerful thing. And good communication seeks to initiate change. It can bring out the best or worst in people. It can make people question those things that are limiting them or passionately embrace the very shackles that are killing them.
There are two things to remember as you embark on any journey that’s going to take an investment of your time and energy:
· First: do it because you want to make a difference in this world. Whether it’s cooking a meal, making a bed, making love or writing a book. Do it to make a difference.
· Second: Do it because you want to change beliefs. Preferably limiting beliefs that keep people stuck. That means really educating yourselves on how people think, what they believe and how to reach them.
If you do these two things, and keep them in your mind at all times, you’ll never fail. Because your purpose will be so much bigger than just self-expression or acceptance. The bigger your goal, the more you’ll learn on the road to it. Keep your eyes on bigger prizes guys. Let writing just be one small piece of a larger and more exciting life. And you’ll not only change others for the better, but yourselves too.