This is the last one in the series!
In the last post, I wrote about how we are what we mostly do. In this post, I’ll write about the ways in which we’re passively “running in the background” of other people’s lives. I find it a life-affirm-tastic exercise!
There are a complex multitude of ways in which we influence the world, and no one of them represents the entirety of our being. Pretending any one of them does is dangerous.
So many writers say, “Be kind to your fellow writers! Help them out!” In most instances I’d bet it’s because they don’t like the idea of someone being mean to them, or because they want help.
They say, “Celebrate other people’s successes!” Only because, I don’t know, it’s nice?
They say, “We’re in this together!” Are you in it while I’m alone in my bedroom staring at the ceiling? Nope.
I agree with all these statements to some extent, but want to expand on them a bit. If you help others, you have a personal stake in their success. It doesn’t take long to help one writer, and there are very few people doing it. So a share of someone else’s success is there for your taking. That might be a selfish way of looking at someone else’s achievements—but no matter the intent, it’s a net-good thing to help others anyway.
If your only takeaway from the world of writing are the times when you personally succeed, of course you’re gonna hate it! Because there are way more writers than just you, therefore the successes of others cumulatively dwarf yours.
If you read that and think, “I don’t have time to help others out!” uh, it’s happening anyway just by your existence. People are watching what other writers do all the time, therefore you owe it to yourself to acknowledge it and experience it more to your advantage.
Here’s an example of the most minor way in which I matter.
I recently noticed that this guy at work kept staring at me, day after day, every time I passed by him. I had no idea why—until the end of the week, when I saw that he’d shaved his head. His hair had been visibly thinning, and his head looked way better shaved. I could see in the way he sat and talked to his coworkers how much more confident he looked.
In case you didn’t know, I have a shaved head too, because my baldness became noticeable last year. I’m pretty convinced that my baldness acceptance empowered him to do the same. Pretty sure. (I’m taking it as a win anyway!)
Here’s a funnier one: as you may know, I have a podcast called Losing the Plot where I talk to various creative types about their projects and life. Sometimes I’ll invite someone and they’ll say, “Thank you so much, but I don’t know why you’d want to talk to me. I’m just a [putdown]” or, “I’m too shy” or “I don’t like the sound of my voice.”
I say, “I thought it would be fun but if you don’t want to take part, I respect that.” I leave them alone.
With a very high frequency, later on—never that late afterwards—that same person will post a link to an episode of a different podcast they made an appearance on. Not to me, just on their page or whatever. In the post, they gush about the experience, say they never dreamed they would be on a podcast. They were oh so nervous but they had a blast, wonderful community etc.
And I think, “Great!”
Because surely I have a share in that experience? It’s not the flower I expected—and it’s in someone else’s soil—but it’s still my seed!
The podcast appearance messages aren’t directed at me. They’re probably posted without me in mind at all. Maybe this person has completely forgotten what gave them the idea that they could be on a podcast in the first place. (And sure, maybe I had nothing to do with it!) But think of all the other ways in which what we say and do impacts those around us!
That’s just an example of my influence that I happened to catch. How many more are there that I don’t see, do you think? I’m gonna guess 9 per caught example. I chose a minor one to illustrate my point, but other guests who came on my podcast have gone on to start their own, make appearances on other podcasts etc. Sometimes I’ll get a story published by a magazine and see others submitting to it later. I like to think it’s because they trust my taste/ writing quality—though with some it’s definitely, “He got WHAT published WHERE?! Well if HE can…!!” I wish folk like that the worst, frankly. I want to read fiction by well-meaning people—but that’s another blog post, I think…
Hey, if you’re really feeling insignificant and want to see people freak the hell out, quit drinking! Everyone tells me they’re gonna cut back drinking themselves, run a marathon, lose weight, call an estranged parent… People treat you like you’re freaking Jesus. I mean, this is a few weeks after they’ve scoffed at you, treated you with hostility and generally seen your sobriety as a commentary on them and, indeed, a personal offence. But it’s still nice to know you set them off. (Plus they’ll feel stupid for reacting that way, even if they don’t tell you.)
There are endless, endless examples of influence. I hope you have many of your own now, or find more next time you look around. Consider all the many conversations you’ve had, interactions and people you’ve passed by and so on and so forth.
People are paying attention. We owe it to ourselves not to underestimate the influence and responsibility we have to others just because the successes that we see are the iceberg tip.
We’re so much more than just this handful of categories we unkindly obsess over. And when we do that, we don’t see the influence—if we could, it probably wouldn’t be that great because of this obsession.
I bet life is like 90% silent wins. It’s partly because we aren’t there to see all of it, and also—hopefully to a lesser extent—because narcissistic people like to hoard their favourite stuff and take credit for other people’s work. But have no doubt that you matter in a complex multitude of ways.
If this has helped you, I did a good thing. Certainly better than if I hadn’t written the thing at all. Therefore the time was justified.
Is this the best blog post that ever existed? It’s the best I could make it, on this particular topic, at this time in my life, without going overboard and not dividing my time appropriately between doing this and everything else I need to do.
Am I glad I wrote it? For sure! I seem to have needed to write it.
You’re welcome to tell me if it was useful or not—I can handle it either way 😉