When this blog was in its infancy, the tag line was “empowering mothers, inspiring minxes”. We were shiny-eyed with enthusiasm and the idea that we could touch other women’s lives in a positive way. The promise of doing something purposeful and visible. Something to fill an empty space while our careers where on maternity leave.
Then I started to notice something. How often a new writer would introduce themselves and their blog with the words “I can’t wait to inspire/empower/teach you how to make your life better”. Words that reflected the ones we had used.
Words I found grating. They rankled and bristled and left a bitter taste. They did not compel me to explore that writers work. They left me asking questions – Why does this person presume my life is not complete without them? Why have they assumed they will inspire me? What’s wrong with how I am right now?
Please don’t misunderstand. I want to be inspired. I want to feel. To laugh, to cry, to explore, to be challenged, to learn. I want to see my own experience mirrored in another person’s words. I want to read an eloquent summary of random things that have been swimming around in my own head. I want to read about lives that are completely distant to my own. I want to be amused by a collection of anecdotes. I want to read things that make me stop and think and examine my own life and beliefs. I want doors and windows flung open through the power of words.
It’s why I read. I imagine it’s why most people read.
But I don’t want inspiration foisted upon me. I don’t want to be told “you will be inspired”. That’s for me to decide. There is a world of difference between a heartfelt piece of writing that opens my eyes to someone else’s experience and lists of lofty advice I should take to make my life better.
I took what I experienced as a reader and applied it to myself as a writer. I changed the tag line. Tried to make it reflect what I was about, rather than what I presumed I could offer others.
In her wonderful, wonderful book, Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert says a very wise thing about those whose sole purpose is to write for others. We will feel the weight of your heavy intention, and it will put a strain upon our souls. I love this. It captures exactly what I want to say in a much gentler way. I will be inspired when someone is not striving to inspire me. I will be inspired when I am invited to walk along beside a person for a small part of their journey. When their words open pry open a small crack into their interior lives and let others peer inside. Into a place where there is intimacy and vulnerability. It is in that place that I see bravery. In that place that I am inspired. And, I think it’s the place of most generosity. To write honestly for oneself and then be brave enough to share it.
Do you get a bit bristly when people presume to inspire?