“I’m Not Just Doing It For the Likes”: Does Writing Mean Anything If No One Sees It?

I once had an “s/o” who used to criticize me for, among other things, constantly feeling the need to publish my work (belittled to that still demeaning term, “blogging”) ad nauseum on all social media outlets. He would taunt and lord his superiority over me, remarking of his own writing, “I’m not just doing it for the likes,” as though to emphasize precisely how frivolous all my attempts at a “literary career” were. That to simply publish with ease via the throwaway nature of posts on a blog was insignificant and could not endure the test of time like a “great work.” In all likeliness, this is true (even though that which you posted from years ago could come back to haunt you if whatever you were writing about suddenly touches on a certain zeitgeist, you know, like when the Lana Del Rey fandom wants your blood). But it’s also extremely narrow-minded to adhere to the belief that there is no substitute for the pompous bombast of a lengthy printed book as a means to have one’s writing “sanctioned” by the correct masses. In fact, how can anyone maintain that the printed word is sacred when we’ve seen the most successful pieces of “literature” of the past twenty years come in the form of series like Twilight, Hunger Games and Fifty Shades of Grey (all titles, which, by the way don’t really serve to make women come across as intellectually equal to men, but at least they’re laughing all the way to the bank while white boys with “integrity” continue to stare blankly at their laptops praying for genius to strike at any moment)?

And yes, with this self-aggrandizing notion of having cerebral rectitude over those who would so easily pawn their intellectual property for the price of a few likes ultimately signifying nothing comes the perpetuated belief that it’s more worthwhile to have “the right clientele” read your work as opposed to just any old “average.” That to risk the potential of never having your manuscript or essay or short story read by more than those agents or publishers you query to on the regular–who definitely don’t read the entire thing anyway–is more advantageous and constructive to your assumed credibility as a “writer.” But how can you call yourself as such when no one from the so-called pool of common riffraff (a.k.a. the audience you want to reach) has ever seen what you’re capable of? Even if it’s just a paltry five to ten pairs of eyes that bother to click on what you’ve shared. Because isn’t writing essentially moot if it isn’t absorbed by a reader? Dead in the water (or rather, dust of a metaphorical drawer since everything is stored in the Cloud now) of your eventually flaccid mind as you settle into senility with the self-deluded comfort of never having prostrated your material to the piranha-filled abyss of the internet? More to the point, these questions address the age-old philosophical demand pertaining to perception, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Likewise, if you write something and no one reads it, does it even exist?

Perhaps those who lie in wait for a conventional publishing deal are more high-caliber–or at least more patient. They are certainly, however, not less vain in their motives for writing. For all of us who write can scream to the mountaintop that it is a means to elevate and console others of a shared experience pertaining to the “human condition.” In our faintly remaining hearts, though, we know it is because we are deeply emotionally wounded and want nothing more than to re-create a simulacrum of what it’s supposed to mean to have a successful life (i.e. one enriched by meaningful relationships), a normal interaction with those around us. And, to boot, we want to be acknowledged for the genius of our ability to so accurately present that simulacrum–one that we ourselves will never get to participate in as a result of some defunct emotional mechanism within our husk. For writers are nothing if not a psychologist’s wet dream. Particularly the ones that are so staunchly committed to never having their work seen unless it is through the old guard channel of a standard publishing deal.

This isn’t to say that the form of endless “blogging” (not the same as writing to those “cut above” types) employed by yours truly is going to get you very far or very renowned either. Yet at the very least, you’ve said your piece, and someone–even just one person–has seen it and possibly knows exactly how you feel. Ultimately, this is the core of writing. A secret love affair with a reader that you as the writer will never know anything about. Because Christ forbid anyone offers you encouragement in your hellbentness on a life of poverty and obscurity.

 

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