Over the past decade, I have written more than a quarter million words. I have written on hundreds of topics, some encouraging, some hopeful, some prophetic, some that were difficult or emotional.
Hopefully, through the years, you have known that everything I have written was done only in love, in the hope of us becoming the kind of people, together, that God always intended us to be.
I know I have stepped on a few toes along the way, but maybe we are better for it.
But in the past few years, I have become incredibly discouraged about my writing, asking myself: Why do I waste my time writing when no one is reading or paying attention?
Don’t try to talk me down from the tree quite yet. I know it is a terrible question and I feel horrible that I have not only entertained it, but have also begun answering it in ways that suggest I actually believe my words are a waste of time.
That’s why this is a confession.
It’s crazy the paths we travel and how we end up believing so many lies about ourselves. As an aspiring author, the narrative I have continually been fed by the publishing industry is that in order to be published I have to have a growing platform, which means I need tens or hundreds of thousands of people following me and reading what I write. While I always struggled with that perspective, it’s a business, and they want people who will buy books. I get it.
But the message of “your work matters only if thousands of people are reading it” began to unconsciously work its way into my head. And that’s a message that completely kills. And it was progressively killing me over the past couple of years.
It’s a message that began to change the motivation for my artistic expression from joy and love … to “How many people are reading me?” or “How many people are sharing my stuff?” or “How many people are following me?”
It’s a message that’s predicated, not on the idea of whose lives are being influenced, changed, or transformed by my words, but rather the idea of “What am I getting out of my investment?”
It is a wholly capitalistic notion and mindset of expecting to get a return on the investment. And if I am pouring my time, energy and heart into writing, then ought I not be getting a huge return?
But this mentality is death. It kills love. It kills joy. It kills creativity. It kills art.
When we begin to believe that the worth or value of what we do is correlated with the number of people who see it, buy it, or who end up following us, then we have lost our hearts and the profound joy of expressing it and selflessly sharing it with one person or a million people.
What finally crushed this lie I had believed was a parable.
If you do not identify as religious or as a Christian, keep reading. You will be better for it. If you are a Christian, also keep reading because I am going to flip this parable on its head.
There was a story Jesus shared with a huge crowd. He was discussing a farmer who sowed seeds which fell on various types of ground. Some seeds fell along the path and birds came along and ate them. Some seeds fell in rocky places where they sprang up quickly, but could not take root — so they died. Some seeds fell on shallow soil and the sun easily scorched them.
But there were other seeds that fell on good soil, took root and produced even more than what was sown.
The way we have always understood that parable is that we need to be the type of people whose lives are good soil, ready to receive the seeds of love sown by God, so that they may take root and produce fruit in our lives.
But there are always more perspectives and more messages in parables that are not always readily apparent. And it was this other perspective that obliterated the lie I had believed about my writing.
Rather than trying to figure out what kind of soil I need to be, I realized that I am the farmer who has the good pleasure of freely and liberally sowing the seeds I have been given everywhere I go. It is not my responsibility to worry about where the seeds fall or if they shrivel and die or if they actually take root and begin growing. My only preoccupation is to wake up each day, grab the bag of seeds, and joyfully sow everywhere I go.
That is where my joy in writing was recently rediscovered and my purpose reignited. Whether it is for the one or for the millions, I just want to write for the joy of it, for the love of it. Let the seeds fall where they may.
Brandon Andress of Columbus is a former local church leader, a current iTunes podcast speaker and a contributor to the online Outside the Walls blog. He can be reached at his website at brandonandress.com.