Is Writing Selfish?

October 15, 2008 § 1 Comment



     Sometimes when I sit at home and write, I wonder if I am being selfish. Shouldn’t I be out in the world, volunteering my time? Working to end poverty? Serving social justice?  


     I work in social service, so I spend 8 hours a day bettering the world and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s an intrinsic part of me.  I train others to do compassionate work; I use my words and thoughts, online and off, to advocate for those who need it.


     But I am paid to do it, so a part of me feels that service doesn’t really count and I privately question my commitment. Shouldn’t I be doing more?


     What about when I sit at home clicking and tapping away, buried in my own head, writing a short story? Am I being selfish? Or am I making a difference?


     I am. And you, the reader, are, too.  


     By opening myself to write about the shadow side of life, its pains and challenges, I force myself to feel: to feel what it’s like to be poor, to feel my stomach growl, to feel the anguish of holding of a sick child with no insurance. And when I do, my empathy increases, my barriers thin and I become more human, more vulnerable, more a part of the whole. When someone reaches out to me, I’m more likely to reach back.


     And there’s more.


     I help you feel. When I paint a scene that brings you into someone’s heart, or mind, or pocketbook, I help you understand: you see others’ frailty, difficulties, and choices with new eyes. You become more human, and with that empathy, your responses change. When someone reaches out to you, you’re more likely to reach back.


     Though our solitary practices, we make a difference – we change lives, starting with our own.


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