I want to write more often. I really do.
And there are several reasons, of varying quality, why I don’t.
There’s the lack of prioritization. Note I didn’t say lack of time. I have the same amount of time as people who write every day, I just prioritize different activities.
There’s “market” saturation. Does the Internet really need someone else like me sharing their thoughts about how the world should be? Hardly.
There are the subjects I’m drawn to. My wife doesn’t believe me, but I really don’t like stirring up controversy. But the fact remains I enjoy thinking about subjects that, to quote Jen Hatmaker, “best (belong) in true relationships, around dinner tables, over coffee, in real life.” I like to reflect on nuanced ideas, subjects that can’t quite be nailed down in a bumper sticker slogan or a 30-second sound bite, subjects that don’t fit neatly into categories like “for” and “against”. It is borderline irresponsible to post these sorts of thoughts in blogs, where they are read outside of the context of relationship and understanding.
There is also the way I want to write. I don’t want to give advice, and it seems much of blogging today is advice-giving. I don’t have the “7 Things You Simply Must Do” if you want to retire early, have a better quiet time, make your family vacation the most super-duper awesomest ever, prevent your children from becoming godless monsters, or grow a better vegetable garden. I have also not yet mastered the art of getting people to click your links by writing misleading headlines (nor do I care to).
But the biggest reason I don’t write more than I do is because getting people to read your stuff requires tons of self-promotion.
And I hate promoting myself.
And I hate the idea of promoting myself in a social media space where seemingly everyone has something for you to buy, read, support, oppose, listen to, reject, boycott, or fundraise for.
To be clear, it’s not that I’m remarkably humble (but could I be if I thought I were?). If anything it’s the opposite. But it’s always been something I’m uncomfortable with.
But as I wrestle with my desire to write and my aversion to self-promotion, I remember a conversation I had with my dad many years ago.
At the time I was the college pastor at a great church in Southern California that was foolish trusting enough to hire 24 year-old me as their college pastor. A team I assembled and I had started a college ministry, and it was going really well.
But I felt a ton of pressure to build the group larger.
Of course, I wanted the group to grow, but I felt the primary means by which I would be evaluated was how many people were attending our services (it probably wasn’t the case, but I’d convinced myself it was). Needless to say, I was uncomfortable.
I didn’t like the idea of making it sound like all we cared about were numbers. I didn’t like the idea of making it sound like we only cared about being the biggest.
And as I shared all of this with my dad, he asked me one simple question:
“Well, do you believe what you’re doing is helping people?”
I didn’t have to think about it for more than a second.
“Of course I do!”
“Then is it really self-promotion?”
“I guess not.”
In that case it wasn’t just self-promotion because I didn’t care about being the biggest, or about impressing anyone with the size of our group. But I did care about people connecting to Jesus and community, and what we were doing with our college group was helping people do just that.
And there-in lies the challenge for everyone who does creative work, or starts a business, or designs a product, or promotes a cause, or otherwise asks others for anything online.
It can’t just be about self-promotion.
There must be more behind it. There must be the more noble goal of actually and authentically making people’s’ lives better with your words, or your song, or your article, or your product. There must be a sincere effort to not simply be another voice shouting for attention, but instead be a voice looking to influence the world for the better in some small well, regardless of personal gain.
So to be honest, I don’t know if I’m ever going to start writing (on the Internet) regularly.
I want to.
I just don’t know.
But I want to keep that idea about self-promotion in front of me, and if you share your ideas or your creations online I hope you will, to. I want what I create to enrich the lives of those who trust me enough to give me three minutes of their attention.
And if I believe I’ve done so, I’m self-promote without shame. And if you’ve done so, you should, to.