The I’m Too Small Excuse

No one would want to read what I write.

There’s nothing we really need to do that isn’t dangerous.
— John Cage

In blogging there is this tool that can make or break a writer. It’s this thing called COMMENTS. A handy little feature that allows others to interact with what they’ve read in a blog post and then leave their thoughts below. One of the biggest questions I get asked as a blogger, which interestingly enough is a question I have often asked myself, is why keep writing if you aren’t getting a lot of comments? Those asking this question are using the comment section as a grading scale. Zero to 1 comment is an F blog post. 2-3 comments is a D. And so on. If you’ve read any amount of blogs, you are quite aware that there are some which have comments in the hundreds. It goes without saying these are the only true A+ bloggers. Right? I’m not so sure.

See, when we’re chasing our dreams, it’s easy to grade them based on the comments we get back from others. Mention your dream to your parents and you’ll get one sort of comment. Mention your dream to your friends and you’ll get another sort of comment. Mention your dream to someone that is jealous of any sort of success that shows up in your life and you will get a far different comment. Mention your dream to someone who thinks they’ve missed the chance to live out their own dream, and they will comment in quite another way.

Our tendency is to question whether our dream is valid. Rather then digging deeper into ourselves and exploring how we feel about it, we choose to make the easier, and usually far less helpful, choice of asking all of those around us. We casually bring it up in conversation and sort of toss it at their feet as a strictly hypothetical scenario. We gather up the comments that they offer and we put them in a bag to save for later. Once we’ve gathered up enough comments we sort them all and often come to the conclusion our dream isn’t nearly as possible as we once thought it was. Who wants to go after a dream when everyone thinks we’re too small to really accomplish it?

We fall into the dangerous trap of sharing our dreams with others, not out of our passion and commitment to the dream, but out of our need to validate it or grade it. And when we get told it’s too dangerous or too foolish for a person so tiny as us, we begin to believe it. I find it sad that we rate each other’s dreams, as if there is some cosmic scale that says what’s inside of you is less important then what’s inside of me.

There is a tendency when blogging to begin writing towards the comments. What this means is that you begin to write the type of posts that seem to get the most attention. If people like posts that are pretty and have a nice sappy story with lots of feel good anecdotes, then that’s what I should write. Never mind that I have this burning story within me that needs to come out about something painful in my life. I don’t want to disrupt the positive feedback I’m getting on my blog, and I certainly don’t want my number of readers to go down. Best to not write blog posts that are bad for business. Or visa versa. Better slice myself open and bleed my honest truth all over the place. I mean, I wouldn't want to sound too cheery or too optimistic or like I have my rose-colored glasses strapped on a little too tight. 

Oh, and if someone leaves a comment where they strongly disagree with what I’ve written or they are put off by an opinion of mine, I better not write on such a topic again. And I should always pay attention to the loudest commenters on my blog. They should dictate what I write about next. If blog posts are receiving fewer and fewer comments, it’s times to rally up my words and put together something fantastic and nice for my readers. I owe it to them, right?

The only thing I really owe is to be true to myself. An artist that performs according to the crowd may get a following for a time, but they will be missing out on the opportunity to create art that makes lasting impact or that starts an underground movement or that changes the artist him/herself. Great art does not create solely based on numbers or marketing or strategy or status quo or comments. Great art takes into account the artist’s heart and the things that pour out from there should not be contained, manipulated or micro-managed. It’s not about whether the artist’s creations will be popular or whether his/her voice will be worth listening to, it’s whether the artist is creating something that simply must come out. The art has to be sustainable, and that's far easier if it is natural and not manipulated.

As we chase our dream in life, the same is true. You may feel as though your dream should not be attempted because you’re too small. No one believes in you, or you don’t believe in yourself. There are too many risks involved and there is no proof that things will work out as you would like. You start to go through your bag of comments you have collected and you start to tweak your dreams accordingly. You listen to the people who are the loudest and most opinionated.

You listen to family because you don’t want to make waves. You tweak a dream for a friend because you can’t leave your friend behind. Soon you have made enough adjustments to your dream that you don’t even recognize it anymore, but you know that it is safe and you know that it will make others happy. Do you prefer to live a dream solely because others have approved it?

I did this for a time with my writing. I went to school for journalism even though I did not want to be a journalist. What I wanted to write was more creative type writing. I soaked up all the literature in my classes for my English minor, while trudging through the laborious classes of how to write for a newspaper. I did this because I was told: "Journalism has more job opportunities. Journalism is the safer choice."

Eventually I just shelved writing entirely (save for maybe a personal journal entry here or there). I decided no one would want to read what I wanted to write creatively. I couldn’t make a living out of it, so it wasn’t worth the effort. Never mind the fact that my heart was bursting with the need to get words out, to express myself, to create original artwork.

If you could go through the history of my blog (I started it in 2005, but I've had some unfortunate crashes since then and lost content) you would see all the people I tried to write for. It took me years to be comfortable with finding my own voice and realizing I had to use it even if no one else understood. I had to write not for the comments, but to be true to myself. You have to dream in that manner as well. Dream not according to the comments, but to be true to yourself. The question is not "Am I too small?" The question is, "Is this dream too big to contain? If it’s a dream like that, then it’s a dream worth living.

There is one popular blog that I know of in which the author has turned comments off completely. No one can grade his work. No one can manipulate his direction. No one can offer their approval or disapproval. At least not right there on his blog. His territory is protected.

There have been times in my life where I have had to turn off the comments from others in my own life, so that I could clearly focus on hearing and believing my own voice. You might consider doing this as well. Don’t share your dream with others if you will be too swayed by their feedback. Keep it close. Protect your territory. Protect your dream, no matter how small and impossible it may feel. The longer you protect it the more it can grow and mature, and eventually you’ll come to believe in it so valiantly that you won’t be afraid to live it, at all costs.

Things to Consider:

  • Who do you need to stop sharing your dream with?
  • How has your dreamed changed based on the comments you’ve heard?
  • If you strip the comments away, what does your dream look like in its purest state?
  • Are you convinced you have something to offer the world by living out your dreams?
  • On the days where you’re not convinced, are you willing to hang on until you become convinced again?
  • Do you laugh? Do you smile? Are you taking yourself too seriously in this whole process? Are you ENJOYing the life you’re creating for yourself?