Consider Henry David Thoreau. He could not find a publisher for his first book, so he financed the printing of 1000 copies with his own money and only sold 300. He spent the last few years of his life before he died of tuberculosis editing his works and urging publishers to republish them. Now his writings are required reading in many school curriculums.
Consider Anne Frank. “Will I ever be able to write something great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer?” She penned these words just months before she was captured by Nazis and taken to a prison camp where she suffered greatly and died, not realizing that the very words she penned in her diary would go on to become immortalized as a message of resistance against tyrannical persecution.
Consider Emily Dickinson. Of the 1800 poems she wrote, fewer than a dozen were published in her lifetime and those that were published were highly altered to fit the strict poetic conventions of her day. In fact, you might not even recognize the name Emily Dickinson if her sister had not broken a promise she made to burn all of Emily’s writings after her death.
There are many others. People who wrote with conviction without an audience. People with transformative ideas that the world discovered too late. People with little hope in this life that their message would gain traction or their ideas would being lauded for their merit. People with no Facebook Like button, no inflated comment count, no Mount Everest page view graph—just something important to say and the conviction, the discipline, and the wherewithal to say it.
Technology has afforded us, however, all these means of feedback, so it’s tempting to monitor them and shape our message around what people respond well to. Content creation by comment count, as it were. But anyone who has ever said anything worth saying knows that the important truths are sometimes the least obvious and least popular.
So the next time you contribute something to the annals of Internet history and you’re tempted to look upon yourself and curse your fate, wishing yourself like to one more rich in fans, friends, likes and comments, stop for a moment and consider instead the merit of your ideas.
“Be not astonished at new ideas; for it is well known to you that a thing does not therefore cease to be true because it is not accepted by many.” —Spinoza