A conversation I just had with my wife prompted me to start thinking (always a dangerous thing for me) about friendships; about the reasons we care for people.
All of us have close friends; those people, without whom your life would not be complete. Your spouse, your siblings – whether they are assigned to you (blood relatives) or whether you pick them yourself – that mentor who has been the guiding voice in your ear for as long as you can remember, are all important to our existence. They are people we simply could not do without.
When these people call us, we answer. If they need us, we go running. When they are having a rough time and need to be shorn up, we reach out our hands and make it happen – because we know they would do the same for us.
As I was talking to my wife I had to ask myself why we do this. Is it because friendship makes us altruistic, and we do this simply because it is the right thing to do? Do we go running because our personal moral code demands it?
I think not. I think when we reach out to our friends, we do it for ourselves. We do it because we are selfish.
The way we treat strangers is decided by our morality, but the way we treat our friends is purely for our own pleasure. Seeing a loved one comforted, seeing a smile on their face, making sure they are all right, all make us happy. Knowing that our loved ones are cared for and at peace, in turn brings us peace and a deep sense of satisfaction. It is a purely and completely selfish act.
I think the same can be said, and probably should be said, for our writing. When we write a story, we do it first for ourselves. We do it because we have something inside us that needs to get out, a tale we need to share. We get our story down because it makes us happy to see it take shape on paper (or a computer screen), and it is something that we would want someone to tell us if we were listening for it.
Then, when we share that story, it makes us happy to see that people liked it. It brings us joy to know that we touched someone with our writing in a positive way, whether it brings them a few minutes of entertainment, or prompts a life changing epiphany.
Telling our story is a purely selfish act, and I think it has to be this way for it to be any good.
So, when you’re telling your story – getting out that thing inside of you that is churning to be set free – remember that is has to be for you, and not for anyone else. Otherwise, it will be false, it will be a lie, and it will fall flat. But your inner truth will always turn out well.
As always, thanks for reading.