Until last year, when I started writing freelance articles with a social narrative and drafting my first Sci-Fi novel, I had never known I could write about anything other than my life, as I see it.
I guess we can chalk that up to 12+ years of adolescent journaling and a few desperate months of hilariously affected, mostly unseen (because I had 14 followers), Tumblr blogging.
I’ve always written about myself, not because I am particularly self-centered, or even all that eager to share details about my personal life. Getting me to talk about my problems in person has, on more than one occasion, been described as ‘pulling teeth’. But I am, and have always been, innately emotional and highly sensitive. And I have struggled all my life with trying to cope with that in this sometimes ugly, sometimes really scary and harsh world.
When I was small, and my emotions were too big for me to handle and I couldn’t seem to talk through tears, my mom always encouraged me to write it down.
And so I started, and I never stopped. It even became a sort of crutch, in some ways. When a deep, dreadful, face-to-face conversation proved to be necessary within one of my interpersonal relationships, I would write letters instead. I wrote to express myself because I found I was much more eloquent when I wasn’t blubbering, but I also wrote because it gave me clarity. My fingers seemed to know the answers to my brain’s impassioned quest for all that felt right and true-to-me. Everything I needed to know about myself would be revealed as soon as it hit paper and I held it up to the light.
And then, after what felt like far too long, I found them…The beatniks that showed me what writing about life could really do. Bukowski, Hemingway, Fitzgerald. The gang of talented misfits that fed my flame until, lo and behold, I too wanted to be a writer. A teller of stories and truths, both beautiful and ugly. I wanted to be a person who could connect to strangers by way of magic. By writing things that they could feel. And what in the world did I know better than how to feel…
So I began writing a blog. A rather silly form of writing, in most people’s eyes, I’ve been told. But a platform for my stories, nonetheless. And I had to be bold about it, because if I was going to relate to people on any level it had to be real. It had to be raw and sometimes it was necessary to paint myself in an unflattering, but honest, light.
I started off small. Dating tales, mostly. Some self-exploration. I have always written on the fantastical side of realism. That is to say, I see life like poetry. My reality plays out before my eyes like a romantic dance and love stories (and love-stories-turned-anti-love-stories) come out of me like an easy exhale. But it soon occurred to me that I was releasing the intimate details of my life into the most unforgiving place that has ever been: the world wide web. I was giving inside information to acquaintances, lovers, total strangers and even those who may not have been my biggest fans. And once it was out there, they could do with it whatever they pleased. But I have found that the most fascinating thing they can do with my story is decide that, by writing it, I am giving them permission to have an opinion on it. And since most people like to make informed opinions, as soon as I began to post, the questions naturally followed.
I would get emails from men I had written about. I would get emails from men I hadn’t written about who had assigned themselves as the muse to one of my stories. Gossipy women I only knew in passing would ask for the scoop. More details they might be able to share at the bar. “She wrote a blog about_____! Can you believe it?”
And I get it, man. I signed up for it. And it’s been weird. It’s been uncomfortable and oftentimes a little embarrassing. I used to hold so much of what I wanted to write about close the the breast because I was too afraid of what people might think. Of what they might do with the information, with my information, once they had it. And to be totally honest, there is still so much I haven’t written because I fear the way others’ egos might morph my well-intentioned words. And some things are just so deeply personal that I shudder to think what will happen to my truth when people take it out of the context in which it was written and assign to it all of their prejudices and opinions.
But when it comes down to it, until recently, writing was the only healthy coping mechanism I knew through some really fucked up shit. I now have published work, on the internet of all places, that references sexual assault, an eating disorder, and a mental illness that society has stigmatized to the umpteenth degree. All the things I was, until recently, too terrified to speak out loud about are slowly finding their way into my writing because I remembered that all I ever needed to do to heal myself was to get it down and paper and hold it up to the light. For myself and for the one person who might need to hear it…
And you know what? Much more than I have ever felt the embarrassment or the fear of judgement, I feel hopeful that every so often some of my words will land on eyes that really need to read them. ‘Cause I’ll tell ya; Nothing compares to the oneness, the harmony, the relief you feel when someone messages you to say, “Shit man, I’ve felt that exact same way.”
It’s what made me fall in love with with Bukowski and Hemingway and Fitzgerald. It’s why I write. And it’s why I won’t ever stop.