Last Saturday, I went to the spa to celebrate my birthday. Before going, I decided to pay special attention to my people-pleaser tendencies — those numerous little efforts I make daily to put people at ease or to evoke a positive inter-relational response — because at this point in my life I’m examining many of the things I used to take for granted about myself. (And, just as an aside, let me tell you I’ll be delighted when I can finally move out of this introspective phase!!!)
Anyway . . .
I like being nice; it comes naturally now. It’s fun to make people feel good. And it’s a real asset in my work.
What does this have to do with writing?
Everything, I think.
The longer I’m a writer, the more I’ve come to believe that this task, this creative calling, isn’t just about putting words on paper and honing/editing them to a marvelous sheen. Being a good writer is also about understanding. It’s about watching and thinking and analyzing and feeling deeply.
As a reader I often don’t give a rat’s ass for structure or plot, but I’m a total sucker for voice. It’s true that I do know some shallow human beings who manage to pull off wonderful literary oeuvres. I also know some fascinating writers — as people — whose works I can’t read. But the majority of folks that keep me coming back for more are those who are, indeed, in touch with a magnificently unique essence in themselves. That gem of an individual identity comes out in their writing as distinctly as their fingerprints would on a blotter.
I don’t know if this is true, but I suspect that my people-pleaser tendencies have pften nudged me to write things that I want others to like more than paying attention — perhaps — to deeper stories that I need to tell . . . even if they may not make others “feel good.” I’m not saying that Sasha or Darnda aren’t coming from a distinctive place; I’m not putting myself down. . . . Oh hell . . . I don’t know.
People-pleasing is safe, isn’t it? And it carries such pleasant dividends on a day-to-day level. But is writing the place to do it? Is this another case of marketing vs . . . whatever? Readers do expect certain things from established writers, but is that voice — that inner truth that comes out in some writers’ works — the real goal?
As often happens with my posts, I’m merely asking the question. And I’d love to hear your take on this.
I guess my question is:
Does the urge to please people get in the way of a deeper creativity?