A friend of mine said, “I’d like to write about some things in my life. But how do I know if I should?”I asked my friend if the goal was to write for herself or for the purpose of sharing. Writing for oneself is a valuable and wonderful thing with no need for reason. It can be awakening and joyful. It can be therapeutic or cathartic. Whenever you are inclined to write absolutely do so. When the writing is no longer intended for yourself, e.g., the goal becomes sharing or publishing, navigate toward the why in which you are writing. An idea is always worth writing when you have a cause you believe in wholeheartedly.
Simon Sinek led a TED Talk titled, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” His message resonated with me in a very personal way. Sinek’s “Golden Circle” describes a mindset that works around three questions: Why, How, and What. He codified the reason great leaders or products win loyalty. “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” Sinek, S. (2009, September) Conducted at a TED Talk conference.
I applied his message directly into the scope of writing.
- As writers, what do we do? We write stories.
- How do we write? Creative description, truthful dialogue, empathizing characters…
- Why do we write? We believe in the message of our story.
It is in the why where our drive to write a story should begin. “And by why I don’t mean to make a profit. That’s a result; it’s always a result. By why I mean what’s your purpose? What’s your cause? What’s your belief?” Sinek, S.
Why does your book exist? And why should anyone read it? People who believe what you believe will be drawn to your writing and will be the first to commend it. And they won’t be reading it for you; they will be reading it for themselves. Because they believe what you believe.
What we write can and should aim to challenge the status quo. Acute writing can lead us to think differently. Writing deftly, with courage and truthfulness will connect your audience with their own passions, their own beliefs, and awake their own messages. People don’t buy what you write; they buy why you write it.
When thinking about putting your ideas to paper, think about the why. Do you often find yourself trying to explain a philosophy, a message, a belief? Do you feel motivated to convey a moral lesson you’ve learned? Can you “hear” a character’s voice, see their life – as if a movie reel were on repeat in your mind? What is he or she trying to communicate? What is the message? What is the why? People don’t buy what you write; they buy why you write it. The goal is to write about what you believe because you believe it.
Two years ago, while jogging with my puppy-dogs, I realized there was a story unfolding in my thoughts. From beginning to end I saw a protagonist, close-knit allies, goals, the antagonist and the obstacles buttressing their crossover. I was apprehensive to bring up my idea to anyone – worried to even whisper the idea. However, the idea was stubborn. It marinated in my thoughts, never letting up, always appearing in some form or fashion. And for weeks I let it. Without a whisper to anyone I thought over the idea – asked myself questions about the why this story needed to be told. One night, late in the evening in December, I told my husband I had an idea for a book. As I went to explain it I noticed the chemistry in my body changing. I was nervous – I hadn’t spoken one word about this idea to anyone and here I was sharing it. I finished and waited for the reaction. My husband sat calmly staring away from me for a moment. “One,” he said turning to me, “I love it. And two, why aren’t you writing it already?”
Now, I don’t believe we should tell our ideas to everyone. In fact, I would shy away from that entirely. Sometimes talking at length about a goal can make the psyche feel accomplished and less inclined to work. However, specifically in my case, I needed a push – one person whom I trusted to be truthful and launch me into the endeavor – an encouragement to dive in.
And in that moment I took the plunge.