On Writing and Harper Lee
An open letter to anyone that reads anything that I write:
Sometimes, I can’t stop writing. Sometimes, I don’t feel like it at all. Today was one of those days.
Many of you have asked why I started writing so much this year. Here is that answer:
First and foremost, I write for me. It’s how I process things. I write a million things that don’t get posted, about a million different topics. For a long time I didn’t know how to talk about things in my life that were a mess. Writing helps me get things out of my head so I can keep going in a positive direction.
Secondly, I write for you. That’s actually what drives me more on days like today, when nothing’s up for me that I feel like talking about. Because I know what it feels like to feel alone, and like no one will understand you and whatever life’s circumstances have brought you to. It makes me angry sometimes that society, especially with social media, teaches us that the goal in life is a shiny highlight reel. Because no matter what your situation is, and no matter how hard you try to present that highlight reel to the world, it’s not the full story. Everyone is dealing with something. Even if you’re lying to yourself about it. I have done the same. And that’s ok. So if there’s something that I can say that can help, I’d be doing you a huge disservice to keep my mouth shut.
Sometimes I write to tell the truth. Sometimes I write fiction to make a point or tell a story.
In the book Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, she tells a story about Harper Lee, author of To Kill A Mockingbird. If you’re not familiar, To Kill A Mockingbird is basically required reading for high schoolers across the U.S., or at least it was when I was in high school. She talks about how after writing To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee never wrote anything again for decades after she published it because it had such huge success, and she was afraid she could never write anything better. The quote she uses is something like this: “When you’re at the top, there’s only one way to go.”
Half the time, the things that I write that I think are shit get the most response. And the other half the time the things I write that I think are decent, I get crickets. So who am I to say what’s good or not? And how am I to know what is helpful or resonates with someone?
You’re important enough though, that if I can take something I’ve learned and share it with you, and it helps even in the slightest, that it’s worth it for me. Even in the wake of the fact that for some of you I will never know either way.
I keep writing; things that are good, things that are bad, things that are the truth and things I make up. I don’t care if I’m at the top or the bottom of society. I care that I might be able to help someone.
So I keep writing, even on days I don’t want to.
Because Harper Lee couldn’t.