TO WRITE OR NOT TO WRITE?
I had a friend (and fellow blogger) recently ask me about writing posts that share personal matters—not the kind where I discuss my menstrual cycle, but the kind where friends or family might be involved. He’s got a potentially emotional story brewing, and I really wanted to think of the right words to encourage him; to reassure him that whatever mild discomfort his family may experience from his story would be far outweighed by the profound affect it would have on his readers.
But I couldn’t say it, because I haven’t followed that philosophy myself.
I have a confession to share with my readers: I’m a liar. Well, if omission is lying. If so, then I’ve definitely sinned.
LEAVING THINGS OUT
In my first blog, which was all about my wedding, I left out many stories about the hellish family feuds that erupted, the troubles with absentee wedding planners, the problems that my fiancé and I were having interpersonally. Likewise with my second blog which spanned the length of my marriage, and the start of a chronic illness which, to this day, I’ve only ever alluded to in my writing. Upon reflection, I think it was personally detrimental to my own processing of these events to keep things so bottled up. When I started Girl, Crafted, I swore that would change. But there were roadblocks.
First off, I have chosen to write under my real name. This means that many people who read my blog actually know me and the people in my life. Even with pseudonyms, which I use all the time, those closest to us can likely put the puzzle pieces together.
Secondly, I have a fear of trolls—and that’s reasonable. There are people to this day who enjoy talking about my divorce on certain troll message boards, as if they think I don’t know they’re out there. While I understand and accept that even my tiny sliver of fame naturally comes with gossip and anti-fans, it’s hard on the nerves. Trolls can be exceptionally good at saying the exact things that our own inner critics often whisper to us in our heads.
THE REAL ME
The result, unfortunately, is this: I have people in my life who think, because I don’t blog about my deepest failures, pains, or slights, that they do not exist. Or worse yet, that I’m ignorant of them; that I’m heartless. I also fear that by sharing so little, I paint a rosy picture instead of my very real, and very relatable, human experience.
My recent breakup is a great example. Yes, I wrote a post about it. In an effort to avoid any backlash for my ex, and to avoid anyone feeling like sides needed to be taken, I didn’t blog about my own experiences—not the soul-crushing ones that led to the dissolution of the relationship, and not the anger and pain that came after. In fact, so aware was I that many of the people I talk to every day are readers, I didn’t share these things even in person. I can count on one hand the number of people who know even half of struggles. The result is that I was often labelled as callous or unfeeling; this was exacerbated by the fact that the other side of the story was broadcast loud for all to hear. Which leads to an interesting question: why is it so much worse for a writer to share their true story than it is for an individual who has a large (but face-to-face) audience? Why do we writers of the modern era fear to hit ‘publish’ on that blog post?
I want to set the record straight. My spring breakup was not easy on me. The decision to end things was painful and spanned many months. I sought counselling; I tried wildly diverse tactics and techniques to mitigate the issues we were facing. I had to come to terms with the impending loss of two kids whom I’d come to think of as my proteges. And knowing that I would be too afraid to share any of this, I had to come to terms with the fact that my true grief would never be heard beyond a very small audience—not even my household. In fact, only two people know the story.
BREAKING THE SILENCE
It can be very isolating, writing for the public. But this weekend, for the first time, I wrote a Facebook status that shared a little bit about my breakup pain; while I was terrified to do it, the responses I got were overwhelmingly affectionate.
One in particular, though, changed my entire thinking on my practice of hiding my worse struggles. A dear old friend reach out to me…one who has been a guiding light for me in rough times. She messaged me privately to let me know that she takes strength and courage from my writing—the few stories I do share of my real-life struggles. Instead of seeing me as weak or stupid, she reads these stories and sees my perseverance as a reminder to be strong in her own journey. When I am honest and open with my readers, it turns out I give them so much more than when I slave over DIY instructions and recipe photos. And unlike the unfiltered venting that may happen in a face-to-face wallowing session, we writers tend to word things in a reflective, thoughtful manner that is healthier both for us and for the listener.
So I’m telling you all right now: I was not okay before, during, or for a long time after my breakup. If you are, or have, experienced one of your own, please don’t think for a second that you’re less awesome because you didn’t just jump right back into trying new recipes and painting new antiques, as I seem to have done. I bought a giant stuffed pony and a body pillow because my bed felt empty. A giant stuffed pony at age 32. You are not alone if you are grieving and suffering, even if your circumstances demand that you, too, keep your pain (from whatever kind of loss) hidden. I see you just as you are, and you’re still wonderful.
Even this post will be picked up by the trolls message boards, and there will be those (even friends of mine) who may see this post as self-indulgent or unfair to the people I’ve briefly mentioned here. They’re wrong. When writers share their struggles, even those that involve the people around us in some less-than-discreet way, we are doing something selfless: we are giving of our own journey to support the journeys of others.
So, to my fellow writer, I say please write your post. Hiding your story benefits no one, and beautiful things can happen when we share.