Are you a heart whore?

A different perspective for why we write

You know when you’re so tired you just want to curl up in a little ball and shut the world out for a week? It’s a spirit kind of tired.

I almost didn’t write today.

When I’m that kind of tired, opening up Medium and seeing the same kind of posts with 1K+ hearts collected after only 2 hours — written by writers who collect hearts just by taking a breath in public — is all kinds of discouraging.

Not that I want to be them. I really don’t.

But it does make me wonder if I should even be writing here. If that’s what gets the hearts, I’m on the fringe … once again.


My husband is taking his final exams to become a home inspector. All through his program, with every assignment and test, his response to his grades is disgruntled unless he gets 100%.

I keep telling him, “no one will care if you got 89% on your case study on heat pumps.”

This morning, when he did it again I asked him, “do you remember what you got on that test you took in that first course on structure?”

He thought for a moment. “No.”

“Exactly,” I said. “The mark doesn’t matter. Just pass. You know this stuff and that’s what matters.”


That’s THE biggest negative about any social media: it conjures up all of those old feelings around approval seeking … getting that ‘A’ … being one of the popular kids.

Even the worst student out there will tell you they enjoyed getting an ‘A’, or longed to get one. (My husband admits he was a terrible student — case in point.) And who hasn’t done something at some point, completely opposed to themselves, just to ‘fit in’?

If we’re honest with ourselves, we easily morph into approval whores on social media. Whether it’s collecting hearts on Medium, getting likes on Facebook, retweets on Twitter, pins on Pinterest …

Google is the kingpin of them all — the blogger’s pimp, gracing us with traffic if we do its bidding. And the stats are like crack.

It can all get rather unseemly, so it seems.

Here’s a rather dramatic description of what becomes of us the more we whore:

“Being dependent on approval — so dependent that we barter away all our time, energy, and personal preferences to get it — ruins lives. It divorces us from our true selves, precludes real intimacy, and turns us into seething cesspools of suppressed rage …” ~ Martha Beck

My dad has often shared the story of how he taught me my colors using Smarties. Every time I guessed the right one, I got to eat it. What fun, right? I loved Smarties, so why not?

In psychological terms, approval whores are extrinsically motivated.

It’s the motivation that expands in response to external stimuli, whether it be an ‘A’ grade, a heart, a hug, a raise, a shot of dopamine … a treat of some kind. It’s what makes a dog salivate.

We shouldn’t feel bad or creepy — we’ve had it trained into us from our earliest days, and no one is to blame. Since all of us learned that way, we do the same thing with our own kids, and it all self-perpetuates.

It’s the easiest way to train children (think most current school systems) … and dogs (think Pavlov).

But, to be clear, I don’t think extrinsic motivation is all bad.

We need some law and order for society to function. We need to do work that will please others so that we can get paid and cover our bills. And, really, it’s a good thing to be thoughtful and caring of what others feel and think.

But, if that’s all that motivates you?


Back to writing …

“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.” 
~ Stephen King

We have to forget about collecting hearts — forget about getting graded. Somehow, we have to have another greater purpose to which we are driven, and believe in spite of approval … or the lack of it.

It’s about getting intrinsically motivated — being true to ourselves, our world, and our writing.

Ask the big questions, like why you want to write in the first place — and I’m sorry, it’s not enough to say that you do it only for yourself.

Yes, we have to be driven by our own heart — but that’s so that we can have a purpose that’s as big as we can imagine. One for which we must open the door because it cannot be contained.

Writing is a powerful act; words may slip onto the page effortlessly, but their impact can reverberate far and wide through space and time.

How truly blessed are we that we can wield words rather than swords?!

So when we open the door, it’s not about approval. It’s about making a difference.

“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well.” ~ Stephen King

I woke up feeling like leaving social media — and maybe the online world all together — to enjoy my hovel in the wilderness where I can close the door and find quiet for my tired brain. Imagine the freedom from heart-envy and the temptations of whoring!

But that isn’t the solution (I said to myself).

Why? First, because I know it would be better if I learned to deal better in the face of envy and temptation. And second, because not only do I deserve to speak my version of the truth, but the world out there deserves a chance to hear my version of the truth … a mantra for any writer, by the way.

As much as the approval stuff is THE biggest negative, the freedom of expression that social media offers is THE biggest promise.

And so I wrote … and opened the door.


If you enjoyed this post, clicking the will let me know.

I’d also love it if you follow me and/or my publication, The Alchemme so that we can stay in touch. (I know, I just whored a bit … )

Let’s open the door together.