Before we begin: if you have a moment, I would appreciate it if you could fill out a 3-question survey about your biggest challenges in sharing your writing and creative work. It will help me a great deal as I develop new resources. The survey is here. Thank you.
Today I want to talk about why we create and share. This is something I meditate on all the time, and it is why I work with writers. This week in particular I’ve been thinking about it a lot because I heard of the death of one of my favorite musicians. As I considered his legacy, I was reminded of something:
By “art,” I mean anything we create: your writing, your illustrations, your music, your sculpture, your performance, anything creative.
After we are gone, art lasts.When we leave the room, art lasts.When someone finishes your book, art lasts.
These things happen in people’s minds, and in their hearts. In an age where we try to measure the impact of our work through bestseller lists, reviews, likes, shares, subscribers, and so much more, the truth is that we will never know the most powerful ways that what we create impacts others. So often it happens quietly, years later. Someone remembering a line from your book 7 years after reading it, and in a moment, it inspires them. Your words give them hope when they need it.
You may never know how your creative work leads to small but meaningful decisions in other people’s lives. To actions they take, or a gateway that opens up to them through your words.
I’ve heard some writers try to undercut the importance of their work, saying things such as, “Oh, I just write to help people escape. There is no deeper meaning.” They eschew any concept of trying to inspire or educate or help the reader connect more with themselves, or the world. But, I find that these stories and characters often act as guides for people regardless. To help them look at the world, at others, at themselves in new ways. I don’t think so many people are walking around with Superman tattoos because they just think it’s a fun romp, or they dream of flying. That character reminds them to strive for something better. To care for others. To do the right thing. What you create has the possibility to do that with everyone it touches.
That musician who passed away? His name was George Winston. He was a pianist who composed beautiful solo arrangements. On his passing, I was reminded of how many thousands of hours I have spent listening to his music.
His website lists his upcoming tour dates as “touring postponed.” I like how hopeful that feels, because his music lives on.
He described his piano playing as “folk piano,” which fits it perfectly. For me, his music is just… beauty. They are stark and powerful pieces. George’s songs played at my wedding. They also played during many nights where my wife and I just sat at home talking. They played when I sat in a room alone, just wanting to relax. They played on holidays with my kids.
While he is gone, his music remains — streamed on Spotify or purchased on vinyl. I’m a member of a Facebook group of his fans, and this week, members have been sharing photos of their collection of his music:
I also know this: if I never hear another George Winston song, his music is already inside me. The effect of his music has already shaped the way I live, and small actions I take. In this way, his music has impacted others in the world through me.
This is why I am such a strong proponent of sharing what you create. Because that work will not just be “published,” it will also connect deeply within another human being. You are an advocate for what you create. George played more than 1,000 concerts in his life, did hundreds of interviews, met with countless fans, and maintained a social media presence. In their own way, each of these things was a part of how his work was shared, and how it spread. Even this very post that I am writing.
George shared how important the connection to his audience was to him:
“The audience thinks that they are attending a performance because of me. I think that I’m attending a performance because of them… The only thing that is real to me about music is the player and the listener. As long as there is one person, I will play.”
The ways we measure the success of our work can’t always be quantified. Not as sales, downloads, reviews, subscriptions, media hits, follows, or likes. Because when you share what you write, your work comes alive in those it touches. Sometimes the way it changes us is imperceptible, but it is there, if you look for it.
Thank you to all of you who create.