Everything I’ve written for the last five years has been for an audience of one. Everything I’ve had to say was ultimately for her.
Part of me has known that, but the conscious part of me has been in the dark. And now that I understand, it all seems obvious. It was all for her.
On Brian Koppelman’s podcast this week, Seth Godin was talking about how creators change their work depending on the audience they choose. Godin’s argument was much deeper and more complex, but it was on this particular point that I suddenly had to stop the recording Sunday evening — because I had experienced an epiphany that I hadn’t seen coming.
A little bit more than five years ago — May 13, 2014, to be exact — I had run out of things I wanted to say here. On that date, I actually wrote something explaining that I had realized that everything I’d done for the previous three years had all been for a woman. I no longer had anything to say to that woman. I was moving on — and I was seriously considering shutting the site down.
And then something happened. In a miracle of timing, someone else came into my life — and I had a lot to say again. The words I needed to write suddenly changed.
Without having any intention to do such a thing, this woman changed my work.
Now that I see this, it’s incredibly obvious. If you go back and track what I was writing about, you can see how much things changed during the summer and fall of 2014.
I fell in love with someone. I fell really hard. And it changed me.
I had things I needed to say to her. I had things I needed to work out in my own mind which were awakened by falling in love with her. And even though I never once sat down and directed a specific piece of writing at her, it’s clear now that she was the thread running through everything I’ve had to say.
It was a shock to realize this earlier this evening. It was like a bolt of lightning out of the blue — like a literal flash of light that was intense and earth-shaking.
It’s not that I’ve been talking directly to her, of course. I’ve had no way to know whether she even knows what I have to say anymore. And if I’d just wanted to write directly to her, there were easier ways to do it. I could just send email. This was something deeper.
This was more like an impressionistic record of how I have changed — and continue to change — because of the ways I’ve loved her. And I didn’t quite know that.
This is difficult to explain.
I’m not saying that she has done something to try to change me. I’m not even saying that I have been changing myself to try to be something for her. It’s both more simple and more complicated. My own love for her has forced me to change — and what I write here is a reflection of that.
I’ve always known that a creator’s work is changed by the audience he creates for. Over the last 20 years or so, I’ve also understood in a vague way that who I become is changed because of whatever woman was in my life.
But this is a more pure version of the phenomenon. This is me changing — becoming a better person, by my standards — simply because I loved her. She wasn’t even part of the process anymore. She wasn’t in my life anymore. As far as I knew, she never read anything I had to say. But loving her continued to change me.
Here’s the thing. I’ve loved her powerfully enough that I’ve had things I’ve wanted to share with her — big ideas, small ideas, goals, achievements, dreams and dozens of other things — and because I haven’t been able to share them with her, I’ve created something else with them.
The early 20th century success writer Napoleon Hill had a lot to say about the ways in which a woman changed a man when she came into his life. In “Think and Grow Rich” and in some of his other work, he talked about “the mystery of sex transmutation” in terms that seemed pretty mystical to me.
But I think I understand now what Hill was talking about. There is some sort of mysterious connection between two people when there is real love, even if the people aren’t together. Love for someone else acts as some sort of amplifier of something powerful that’s already inside. None of this quite makes rational sense, but something in me knows it’s true.
Hill taught that a man needs a powerful love with the right kind of woman to become what he’s really capable of. I suddenly understand what he was talking about, far more than I ever did.
There’s nothing I can do about this. She is not in my life — by her choice — and I have no reason to think that will ever change. But suddenly understanding what this sort of love is capable of doing — and how it has changed me without my intention — makes me desperately wish I could experience the effects of that love in daily life.
That powerful love has changed me. It has changed what I have to say. It has changed my work. And I have a feeling it would enable a kind of work more powerful than I fully comprehend even now.
I’m not entirely comfortable admitting all this. Part of me would rather just ignore it. The person I was five years ago would definitely have ignored it, because it’s opening myself up in vulnerable ways.
But loving this woman has made me more vulnerable and made me willing to take risks which would have seemed absurd to me five years ago.
I don’t know where this might be leading me, but it’s far too late to stop plunging forward now.
Note: Ever since I started thinking about this a couple of hours ago, I haven’t been able to get a song off my mind, because it seems to express what this feels like. It’s by the musical group called the Album Leaf, which is mostly musician Jimmy LaValle. The song is “Always for You.”