One foggy day, as we climbed a brushed and muddy mountain outside LA, I asked a dear friend a question. After she yet again shared an engaging story containing some very wise and eloquent advice, I asked if she ever had considered writing a book.
“Yes,” she replied. “But why would anyone who doesn’t know me want to hear anything I have to say? What can I possibly say that hasn’t been said before?”
It’s the writer’s dilemma, the human dilemma, the same doubt anyone who has a pen or a computer or vocal cords faces, isn’t it? At least on those struggling days as we sit with ourselves, wondering how we dare to presume our words are worthy of being heard. If anyone cares what our story is or what ideas swirl in our minds and hearts.
When my friend asked these questions of the mountain sky I was already fifteen years and one published memoir into a marginally successful writing career. I had asked these questions off and on for that many years, usually in particularly vulnerable moments – while questioning the invention of the printing press, my mere existence as a result or why Madonna’s brother was a best-selling author as my little memoir struggled to sell those last five remaining hardcopies in Amazon’s “why can’t we get rid of these” storage lockers.
Every day as I wrote said memoir I asked why my story, shared by so many young cancer survivors, was worthy of anyone’s attention? Why was I so compelled to share it nonetheless? Until the mail started coming in. They said no one was telling this story – my story, their story – so honestly. No one else knew what they were going through. In fact, there were several young survivors telling lots of stories, many very similar and some much more fascinating than mine, including best-selling Lance Armstrong. But these readers were convinced I was the lone voice in a sea of folks they couldn’t hear yet. And they were extraordinarily grateful I was willing to share it.
So, I understood my friend’s doubt. But I had an answer, offered to the same sky she’d asked. It’s what I tell myself and my writer clients regularly. It’s also the notion I offer silently to my son – and me – as he struggles to find his voice in a world that expects him to communicate differently than is natural to him. It’s what we all need to remember every time we open our mouths…
Your voice will be heard by anyone who can and wants to hear it. It’s different and worthy because you are the messenger, and there is someone out there who can’t hear yet because you haven’t said it yet.
Not everyone will care what you say. Not everyone is meant to. But in this moment, with your story, with your energy and words, someone is getting the message, the information, the healing, the inspiration, the provocation, the perspective they need and have been seeking, perhaps without even realizing it.
In return, you will know you are heard. You will feel the frequencies unite and your experience, shared as you will, will combine with those you shared it with to become something even greater. You will understand that you don’t need a book or a blog or a microphone to communicate something exquisite that can be exquisitely heard. But look at what you can do if you try.
Every day I thank my friend for reminding me why I write. We all have a worthy voice that offers transforming beauty, healing laughter and truth that transcends what we think we understand. The lesson is in knowing you do and rising above your fears to offer it to a world that will be better off for having heard it.
For when we are brave enough to tell our stories, we all benefit.