The Training Ground of Invisibility [and the REAL Heroism of Creativity]
When we watch a movie or read a book, we identify with the characters.
Especially the hero.
Oh, how we want to be the guy that saves someone from a burning building, finds the killer, or blows the case wide open just in time!
We want to win.
To get amazing results for our efforts and even the glory those results inevitably bring, whether in the form of money, fame, or widespread respect.
As writers though, we tend to be … invisible.
WE are not the story, after all. We TELL the story. We talk about other people’s stories and recognize their heroism, beauty, and importance. Even our most insightful observations are often about things outside of ourselves.
And, as meaningful and important as this work is to us, and as much as we can’t even help ourselves from continuing to do it, that invisibility can sometimes become too much.
Sometimes, a writer wants to be seen.
We want, at least sometimes, to be the hero.
From Hero to Zero — My Own Story
Ever since I was little, I wanted to be famous. And rich. And, most importantly, widely revered and respected. Ideally, it would be for something like singing or writing or just flat out being a genius.
By age twelve I had a track record of being the 100% kid. I was going to be the best at something, I knew, but how delighted I was to have discovered so early it would be for intelligence. Ah, the future was bright.
… Until a new student arrived, whose every test and answer came pre-stamped with a gold star and an A+. I had never known a 110% was possible, but she pulled them out routinely. I could never, ever beat her, no matter how hard I studied. It gutted me.
That year, I uncovered a shattering truth that would change my life. I was not the brilliant shooting star I’d thought. I would not be ‘the best’ at anything, I realized. The world had billions of people in it, and there would always be someone else who could beat me. Someone who was better than me, even at the thing I was best at. I was, I discovered, decidedly average.
Then, in adulthood, I made the mistake of asking God to make me invisible.
I’d briefly tasted the glory and fame of being on stage, and had let it go straight to my head. “You’re AMAZING, Kim!” people kept telling me. It was what I’d waited my whole life to hear. How could I disagree? I was amazing! Thank you for noticing.
It took about a day before my pride swelled to arrogance, and I was soon looking down in judgment at all the lowly people around me who my success had proved I was better than. My mind filled with criticism and negativity, and I was frightened by the swift change, terrified of who I was becoming.
“God! I’m so disgusting and rotten!” I prayed, “Clearly I’m unfit to be in front of people. I’m waaay too proud for this.” I knew the only way to get rid of this deep-rooted pride was to starve it out, so I asked the unthinkable. “God, please rescue me from my pride by making me invisible.”
Shortly after that, I was invited up on stage again to sing with a group. I decided I would test the waters and see if I could do it without becoming a glory-hungry dolt. After the performance, a friend came up to me — this is a friend who knows me and recognizes my face and knows what I look like — and said, “Did you SEE them? Weren’t they were amazing?!”
Um…they? Yes, I saw them — I WAS them! I wanted to scream it, but said nothing. My friend hadn’t even noticed I was there! An amused dread swept through my body as I realized God had answered my prayer, alright. What had I done?!
But it had only begun. As my writing career grew over the years, much of the work I did was ghost writing. Editing. Behind the scenes consulting. All of it invisible. Very funny, God. Very funny.
Mostly, though, I was thankful. Obviously, it was exactly the dose of humility I needed. But, every now and then, I would feel so shrouded in isolation and obscurity, and so jealous of others who raked in glory and riches and success with ease, that the old ego would flare up like the Hulk demanding release, and fill me with a craving for glory again.
Which only proved the invisibility was working. If it wasn’t starving that desire to death, it was at least training me to control the urges — to grip the steering wheel of my mind and crank it hard to the left, veering away from thinking about myself, and instead steering those thoughts toward God and others.
The purpose of creativity is to give anyway, not to receive.
This art of writing is not about ME. It’s not about US, the writers.
It’s about others; something our egos dislike, and something invisibility can help us learn.
How to Not Hate Your Invisibility
Listen, invisibility is an inevitability. As a writer, you may as well embrace that truth right now. Whether you think you need it or not, invisibility is the rite of passage we all must take. Few become instant successes. (And, for those who do, they are usually surprised by the invisibility that finds them later.)
This is good news though, because invisibility is our training ground, and where we learn what it really means to be a hero.
Invisibility is our training ground, and where we learn what it really means to be a hero. -Kimberly Dawn Rempel
On the True Heroism of Writing
We all want to be the hero, but … can we?
Or is it more of a one-hero kind of landscape?
It probably depends on how we define hero. If we’re thinking a hero is a supernaturally gifted being who is more highly skilled in some way than most of the populace, than no. We can’t all be heroes.
We won’t all be “the best” at something.
Most of us are average.
But what if Marvel has it wrong? What if a hero is something more than a super-strength or one-man force?
Alex Lickerman, at Psychology Today, defines heroism as “the willingness to make a personal sacrifice for the benefit of others.”
He expounds, “If you don’t find yourself having to resist a voice inside your head urging you to save yourself instead of whatever action you’re contemplating, my heart, at least, will refuse to recognize your actions — however legitimately compassionate or courageous they may be — as heroic. Serving others while simultaneously serving oneself can be noble, certainly, but a special kind of nobility attaches itself to those who serve others at a cost to themselves. That’s the nobility that tugs at my heart.That’s the the kind of behavior I find heroic.”
Do you see it?
Inivisibility subdues our pride (or vexes it), which can yield the very character of heroism itself; “the willingness to make a personal sacrifice for the benefit of others.”
As writers, we scoop deep from our hearts and unearth observations and ideas to share with others. This is a risky process, and there ARE voices inside that shout to us, “Don’t tell them that!” “Don’t share that! They’ll laugh at you or think you’re stupid! How embarrassing! And definitely don’t tell them you wanted to be famous since you were a kid or how a few simple compliments made you totally judgmental!”
But we do it.
We unearth those secrets and share them, even at the risk of embarrassment. Why?
For the benefit of others.
To let them know they’re not alone in this big old world.
To let them know they’re not insane.
To show them what our own process helped us to learn so maybe they’ll be helped to.
This, my friend, is heroism.
And invisibility is the training ground where we learn it.