I began this blog a few weeks ago, and while I’ve enjoyed the exercise of writing tremendously, I have noticed something in the midst of it that alarms me.
On the one hand, people write to write. It is for its own sake, because being made in the image of God sparks us all to create ourselves. Some of us create art, or music. Some of us create organizations, or meals. It’s not about being creative, in the common sense that implies some people have it and some people don’t. It’s about using our minds and voices and hands to build something into the world around us.
On the other hand, it can be quite tempting to be distracted from the work of creating by watching to see if anyone else cares what you are creating.
It is not unlike the dynamics of a toddler who falls, and after a moment of being stunned, looks around for a familiar face. If they find one, you know what happens next. They begin to cry. But they did not cry at first; they held off until they knew they had caught the eye of someone who would respond. They want to be seen.
Writing in the context of social media can be like this. You create something because you want to, because you thought the idea was interesting or because it helped you sort out an issue that had been rattling around in your brain. At your best, you don’t care who reads it. At your worst, you watch the site stats like a hawk all day.
I am trying to learn from other writers who blog, about similar themes, yes, but also other topics. Having not begun to read blogs until last Thanksgiving, drifting from site to site is a bit like meeting new friends who share something personal and I sigh and think, Me too! But too often, I have found myself drifting off before finishing their thoughtfully created, heartfelt posts. So why do I think anyone might do for me what I won’t do for others? Especially when I know, objectively, how much better a lot of these writers are at expressing themselves on these topics?
There is a counterpart to the fallen toddler, I think. Instead of that type of attention seeking, there is a reminder from Scripture of our God who sees.
Hagar is banished along with her young son, Ishmael. So convinced is she that she will die that she sits and waits for it to hit her. The water is gone, and apparently the only shade comes from a solitary shrub. Rather than die the thousand extra deaths of watching her suffering child, she sets him in that shade, then goes a ways off so she can’t hear him whimper and see him squirm in the heat.
And as she sat there, says the passage, she began to sob.
And God shows up. He calls out to her, makes her promises for the future. He opens her eyes to reveal a well. Hagar and Ishmael are seen and preserved; they move into the future and create something new.
God sees me. I do not need to promote myself. And yet Facebook and Twitter and blog stats talk to me and they say, “Announce yourself to the world! Declare your importance! Make others hear you!” After all, aren’t they all fundamentally self-promotion tools?
We were made to create, but cannot do it to be noticed. We have to do it because it is what God made us to do in the first place, and because we are more of our best selves when we do. Sometimes I imagine God responding to my wonderings,
I see you, you do not need announce yourself. And I love you, without you needing to campaign for self importance. And if others hear you, I hope it is because you are declaring the kinds of things that spur us all towards community, justice, and hope. And then I wonder if the closing line to the converstaion is, Now get off your patootie and get back to work.