A few days ago I had a lovely post-project cup of coffee with a client. This client of mine (let’s call him Bob) is self-publishing a memoir about an important and difficult time in his life. As we sipped on coffee and looked at proofs of his book, he reviewed with me all the steps he’s taken and people he’s interfaced with in getting his project completed. After hiring a developmental editor (moi), a proofreader, and a designer, he is now navigating communication with the next person involved in his process: the printer. A little worse for wear, he’s still determined to stay the course and get his book out into the world–but it’s been a long, sometimes frustrating journey.
Bob reminded me of something I already know, but sometimes fail to remember: Almost nothing in life is a truly solitary venture. Everything we do can (and probably should) require a community of people to really make it happen. Even the most individual of pursuits—writing, painting, running, cooking—ultimately requires the involvement of others at some point. We need teachers, coaches, cheerleaders, and technical guides. In the case of running, we need competitors and running partners. In the case of cooking, we need tasters. In the case of writing and other types of art, we need an audience—and many encouragers, because we artists are a little fragile (whether we like to admit it or not).
For as long as I can remember, building and being heavily involved in my community has been important to me. Maybe because I am one of four children in my family and because I grew up in the same school district on the same cul-de-sac with both sets of grandparents within walking distance for all of my educational years, I understood early that I was a member of a larger whole and that we all mattered. Maybe because I was the oldest of my siblings, chosen as a “Natural Helper” in my high school, and later became a psychotherapist, I learned to sense my responsibility to help people connect with one another and to find resources that make them feel less alone—more supported, seen, and known in their lives.
So when Bob was telling me about what has transpired since I turned his book back over to him after our work together—about all the people he’s interacted with—I nodded, sipped on my double-short-one-pump-sugar-free-soy-latte and made a mental note to be thankful for all the people in my life, too, who make it function (albeit imperfectly) as well as it does. All of those who make my writing life work, and all of the people who generally make my life a delight, are great gifts and huge contributors to whatever I manage to accomplish in all the arenas of life that matter.
When you feel alone, when you have that niggling suspicion that you don’t matter much or that your project/pursuit is irrelevant, consider all the people who are invested in your journey. Who has been pulling for you? Who has contributed? Who is by your side when you’re in despair? These friends and collaborators don’t care if you are perfect, or even great. What they care about is that you live your passions with authenticity and verve—because that gives them permission to do the same.
Keep up the good work, friends. What you’re doing matters to more than just you. And when you’re feeling blue or low, don’t hesitate to reach out.