Why We Write On What We Care About


After a much older personal mentor died a few years after I met him, I was left to reflect on how our relatively brief interactions had affected my paradigm and personal development. As the years went on, I often wished I could hear what he would say about certain issues I was dealing with or just experience his personality and perspective again.

I was very fortunate that this man had authored several books when he was younger, way back in the 1970s, more than ten years before I was even born. Though they had been out of print for a few decades, it was easy enough for me to find second-hand copies of them for sale online. Reading them felt like getting to interact with my deceased mentor yet again. They gave me a window into the type of man he had been before I got to know him and what he had thought and cared about back when he was my age. In a way, a part of him has become immortal and earned the opportunity to persist beyond his natural lifespan, which would have been limited to just the fading memories I had of personally interacting with him.

I was even able to pass these books on to new people, younger than me and in different parts of the world, who I thought would gain something by reading the perspective of that now long-dead old man I once knew. I often try to imagine his reaction to seeing how something he wrote when he was a young man still has influence in ways I'm sure he would never have predicted way back then.

This is the type of long-term intergenerational perspective I now try to take on my own writing. I want to be good enough to write something that will be worth sticking around in some part of society long after I am gone and the world changes.

Whenever any creator voices strong values, they open themselves to the possibility of ideological conflict. Complete strangers who should have no reason to care about your values or personal affairs will take it upon themselves to antagonize you for daring to speak your mind. You cannot spread your ideas if you are not willing to offend anyone. As Thomas Paine wrote, "He who dares not offend cannot be honest." If your message challenges what people believe, some people will take umbrage with its very existence.

Bold statements garner strong emotional reactions, favorable and unfavorable alike. The more important your message, the more it may upset people who disagree. I've already received (likely empty) death threats and been the target of small campaigns to slander my name online by people who were upset about some of the claims I made regarding controversial subjects like spreading political and cultural freedoms.

It is normal to face resistance from your peer group (the people who know you to be a certain way) when you set aspirations for yourself beyond the limits of their comfort. They may prefer the version of you that existed before you ever expressed yourself in such a public and confident manner. They will not necessarily appreciate your new role as figurehead for a powerful subject that matters more to you than the innocuous identity you once embodied. I've often experienced a vague sort of negative feedback from casual friends who were confused about why I was writing on subjects they didn't understand or believe I had the credentials to speak about. I noticed that this only happened with new books I began working on after that had already met me and come to associate me with the previous topics I'd already written about. What they were objecting to was the change in the cultural narrative they had written about me. Part of their sense of identity was enmeshed with the identity they chose for me.

People tend to define themselves by what they can observe, relate to, and replicate within their micro-social environments. Because their sense of identity is constructed by how they perceive their social order to function, they may resist anything that challenges how they have come to believe the world must work. These artificial limits include what they perceive you to be capable of. So, an individual's progress into a new domain of life sometimes requires the loosening or letting go of old social connections.

Change is the entire point. Not arbitrary change or change just for the sake of it. We speak up and write about our perspective because we believe it will lead to positive, important changes in the minds of those receptive what we are saying. A change in their minds eventually leads to a change in their actions. Applied on a grand enough scale, that's what positively changes the world. That positive change is the reason we are willing to put up with the friction we encounter along the way to creating it.

The right work of art changes the lives of the audience that consumes it. But it takes the right message delivered through the right medium to the right person at just the right time to derive the life-changing value they need from it. Take that into account when you choose to write and publish anything you intend to be consumed by others who may find something meaningful in it.

About the Author

Gregory V. Diehl is the founder of Identity Publications and author of several popular nonfiction books on business and personal development. His book The Influential Author is a lengthy, in-depth guide to crafting and publishing meaningful nonfiction books at or beyond the standards expected from traditional publishing. 

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