I used to work in a sales office where framed prints of inspirational quotes and majestic photographs were hung along the corridor walls: “Storms Make Oaks Take Roots,” “They Can Because They Think They Can,” “Determination Is The Wake Up Call To The Human Will” and so forth. I’m sure the Regional Director hung them as a not so subtle kick in the ass as he sent us out the door to close a deal, but even when I glazed over, staring at them from my office door, they continued to have a subliminal effect on me.
In the same vein as these motivational quotes is a familiar query making the rounds on Facebook and Instagram: “What would you do if you knew you wouldn’t fail?” This quote has always bothered me. It seems kind of taunting, perhaps because I can’t think of anything I want to try that might actually produce a failed outcome, like driving an Indy race car, or base jumping off the observation deck of the Grand Canyon.
For me, perhaps the question should read, “What would you write if you knew no one would read it?” I’m not talking about writing in a journal. By its very nature, a journal is private and not subject to public scrutiny. The rules of my journal are spelling and grammar don’t count. I know the contents of the pages will never be open for public consumption, so there’s a bland mixture of acute honesty and profoundly mundane observations. But writing a blog is putting yourself out there – literally.
A lot of people read what I write; many more comment on my pieces, and I know I am making myself and my thoughts open to an untamed audience. When I write a post, each word is crafted specifically to allow access to only so much information. The interpretation of what is being said is up to the reader.
If no one would read what I wrote, would I write about love or passion or anger or frustration? Would I write about destiny or roads not taken? Would I call out the boy who broke my heart or the girls who teased me? Would I tell someone what I really feel? Would I let down my guard enough to let someone in? If no one would read it, does it really matter?
Keeping a journal is like keeping a secret, but writing a blog post–read or unread–is like sharing that secret. You create a witness to an experience, an event or an emotion. It becomes real… tangible. There is always the chance someone will read it; that someone will become your witness and share your experience or your emotion.
That’s what I would do if I knew I couldn’t fail. I would write something that someone might read.