“But what do you WANT to write about?” I asked him again.
He couldn’t answer.
He said he wanted to write a book. But he was lying. Every answer was a well-thought-out formula. An idea that could be. A template. An approach. He was a strong writer in that he was great with words. He knew how to weave them together to convey an idea, to show you multiple ways to look at the same thing, to appropriately use humor, not as a deflection but as a relief from the heaviness of the topic.
But when pressed he had no answer to the question: why do you write?
Finally. We got close to the truth:
He knew his talent was better than most. That was true. He had helped others less talented than him succeed. He wanted the glory for himself.
And while that was an honest answer it wasn’t the true one. I pressed harder:
My question did not compute. So I tried a different way.
Writing is about having something inside of you that needs to come out. It’s not about the words, it’s about the message. You need clarity of thought, and a burning desire to share that thought, idea, story, world, or message, with people.
So I asked, him the real question, “What do you have to SAY?”
He answered directly: “Nothing, really. I just want to be famous.”
I suggested he go another route.
My friend will, likely, be famous. If he can get his act together enough to really finish his book.
And that is troubling. To be clear, a desire to be famous is not a problem. A desire for recognition and attention is also, not a problem. But to write or create – art or business – without heart or intent, that is a problem.
To write or create without heart or intent – that is a problem.
A problem that puts the onus on us as readers and buyers to know the difference. Which is tough because heartless people exist everywhere and masquerade as people who care.
But if you listen closely, really closely, you can feel when someone is empty. When there is no bigger meaning or picture or message inside. When we’re motivated only by external recognition, we might get a fun spectacle or a good story, but you will lose the part that matters. Meaning. Fulfillment. Purpose.
I was sad after speaking with my friend. It has happened before, where people I care about and very much like are lost to their own egos. Blind to what they’ve lost because what they’ve lost is themselves.
I don’t buy that people are self-involved egoic and fame-obssessd from a positive honest place. Those things come from the trauma of not being seen. Of feeling ignored, bullied, and unimportant. No one is naturally hungry for power, they develop that as a compensation tool, a reaction to the circumstances in their lives. We all require more than that. Power, fame, and status cannot fill you.
It’s like claiming someone doesn’t get hungry. You’re human, you get hungry. Period. You’re human, you desire meaning. Period. You’re human, you desire connection. Period. You’re human, you desire purpose. Period. You’re human you require internal worth. Period. These are not things you can opt out of.
And when we deny or pretend like these things don’t matter, we turn to stone.
Some of us can save ourselves, but others are gone forever. Unable to move.
The antidote to this fate is self-expression. To express the self that’s locked away inside. To hear what it has to say and honor it by listening. Because the truth is no one is (really) empty. It is not possible.
What they are is repressed, hidden, locked away somewhere deep inside.
What they feel is judged, scared, or unable to be who they really are.
Who you really are may not look all that different from your life now – it’s often not a huge life overhaul that infuses you with meaning and purpose. It’s simply being psychologically honest with ourselves about who we are and what we believe. It’s telling the truth – listening to that little voice inside that says, no or yes. No, I don’t value a big fancy house. Yes, I am angry. No, I’m not a writer, yes I am a poet. No, I don’t want kids. Yes, I want pizza for dinner. No, I will not tolerate being spoken to like that. Yes, I think you’re disrespectful. No, I am not going to Thanksgiving this year. Yes, I am still sad about how my mother treated me. No, I do not want another slice of cake. Yes, I want recognition, yes I want approval, no not from a healthy place, yes from trying to fill the void left inside by something else.
The psychological truth is the way out. Telling the truth about who you are, what you want, what you value, what happened to you, what you need, and what you believe – To express that is how you prevent yourself from the fate of my friend.
Who will write a decent well-written book.
A book that when it comes out, will fall flat and he will blame us – the readers. He will blame the world. He will find a million culprits to prevent himself from seeing the real reason his book will never be The Great American Novel — it lacks heart.
Intellect, rationality, objectivity, pragmatism, talent – these things matter. A lot.
But without heart, without truth, without psychological honesty – the courage to look inside and ask yourself what you’re really doing here – you will never feel like it’s enough.
You will feel forever empty. Not because you are empty, but because you’re being dishonest.
About who you are and what you desire.
If we continue on this path of self-deception, self-abandonment, and self-denial we will self-destruct and hurt many others along the way.
The antidote is psychological honesty. Tell the truth:
Who are you. What do you want. And why do you think you don’t know?
With love + heart,
PS: Part of what is required to live an authentic and self-actualized life is the willingness to endure the discomfort and rejection that comes with embracing and telling the psychological truth. People will deride, dislike, and discredit you. The world wants to tell you who you should be. What is right and what is wrong.
It’s all made up.
There is no one way to be in this life.
If you have something inside that’s dying to come out – let it out. Don’t die with the best still inside. Bring it over to Brainstorm Road where you can do work that lights you up surrounded by people who will champion your efforts toward self-actualization. Who want to see you succeed in being what the world calls weird.
There are no dreams that are insignificant. Whether you desire to write letters to your five-year-old so you can capture her life or to build an empire of coffee retail stores. Each dream is like a fingerprint, it’s unique to you.
And when you suppress or deny it – when you don’t listen to it – that act is not benign. Blocked desire, creativity, and purpose metastases. It turns your heart to stone. It causes pain, sorrow, disconnection, and suffering. Which you know because you’ve felt it.
I know firsthand the joy of feeling aligned with what you are doing in the world. It doesn’t have to be your profession or full-time job (in fact, it probably shouldn’t be). But it does need to be acknowledged, supported, encouraged, and actualized.