Normally I hate writing projects. You know, write about a favorite childhood memory. Gag. Would that be the nightly occurrence of pouring my mother a glass or two of wine when I was, like, eight? Or the times I portrayed both Jason AND every stupid teenage victim from Friday the 13th in my backyard, alone? (Tools in the garage provided endless hours of gruesome imagination). Not that I’m asking for pity. I’m just saying. I’ve bought a lot of books on writing and I’ve skipped a hell of a lot of end-of-chapter writing exercises.
But this project I’ll do, if only because I’ve wrestled with the same questions since I built the Campfire in December. Anx’s I’m a writer paragraph pretty much sums it up for me, too.
1. What is too private for you to write about in a public forum?
Writing about real life stuff is strange. When I tell people I’m writing again after a six-year dry spell, they always want to know what I’m writing, and when I say “non-fiction”, their eyes glaze over. They’d much rather hear I was writing a novel. There’s a difference between blogging and keeping a journal. I know people read this, and the audience both limits my expression and raises the creative bar.
After starting DogPoet, it was only a matter of a month or two before real-life friends began to read me. Before that I could safely assume that the four or five daily readers were strangers, save for a couple of other bloggers I knew only online. The readership has grown, and I suppose if I didn’t want friends and acquaintances reading this, I wouldn’t have casually dropped DogPoet in conversation.
I had started out using initials when discussing others, but after writing about an encounter I had with a friend (see question #2), I got paranoid about hurting feelings or using other people’s lives as creative fodder without permission, and so I went one baby step further and created nicknames. If you’re a friend of mine, though, you know who Ski, the Tattooed Monk, Bearbait, the Studly Couple, etc are. So.
So I don’t talk trash about friends. Not that I would, normally. I’m careful with my friendships, and I value them tremendously. Consequently, there’s usually no trash to tell. When I mention them it’s usually about what we did one day, or something insightful they said that caused me to think about life differently.
Co-workers or roommates are another matter, if only because I’m fairly certain they don’t know about Dogpoet. I still won’t name names, but those are the two groups most likely to annoy me (see previous posts). Hence, rants. Although I’d rather avoid confrontation when there’s an easier out, I don’t write something I wouldn’t say, if push came to shove.
Readers often remark on my willingness to reveal my interior life, flaws and all. In fact, I hear it so often that I worry I’m being foolish. But I don’t do so recklessly. I do think of the consequences, and you know what? I just don’t give a shit. Talking about my fuck-ups, the addictions and the infidelities, the sadness or my loneliness, it doesn’t bother me. If someone were to be repulsed (or bored) by such details, I wouldn’t miss their company. Life’s too short.
If someone else connects with the crap I’ve done, it’s worth it. It may be a cliché, but if I can help someone else through my writing, I’ve reached my only true professional goal (that, and writing a Lifetime screenplay starring Markie Post). Blogging may be just the next step in reality television and obnoxious public cell phone conversations; the relentless ME-ing of our culture, but if it’s done with thoughtfulness, it can reach higher.
The blogs I read daily (see sidebar) teach me things I don’t know; about music, art, politics, humor, writing. They do so without the filter of an editor, a publisher, or a mega-media conglomerate. Yeah, there’s a lot of really crappy blogs out there, but when we stumble upon and link to the good ones, we share with others the stuff that makes the Internet an amazing place.
2. Have you ever published something too private and regretted it?
I wrote once about my friend the Tattooed Monk, with whom there’s been a long-standing mutual attraction complicated by external factors. We’ve become, instead, very close friends. I wrote about getting take-out and going back to his place to watch tv. As he undressed to his boxers and t-shirt, he said, “You know, there’s been several times when I’ve thought about seducing you.”
Now, he said this after he had made the decision to become celibate, and I used it to illustrate my frustration, confusion, and irrational love of men. After I posted it, I thought that if he were to read it, he’d protest, saying it depicted him badly. But a friend said I was simply holding a mirror up to his actions, and so there was nothing to regret. And though I have left it in my blog, I often think he’d rather I delete it (I don’t even know if he reads this). Now that I’ve written about it twice, I’ve probably made it worse. Heh.
Other regrets? Sometimes I think I’m self-indulgent in my posts, and I’ll often avoid posting when I’m depressed. But somewhere along the way I made a little rule not to edit past posts, save for typos, as a way of staying true to the moment, of honoring the occasional ugly moods that I’ve experienced. I wanted to write about many things, like what it was like to lose my mother, and changing the past would be a lie. Sometimes it’s not so pretty, sometimes I’m very sad or hopeless, sometimes (like now) I’m restless, irritable, and discontent. Which is why I need this.
3. Do you think you could be more risky with what you self-disclose, or is that kind of risk-taking too much of a slippery slope for you?
I think self-disclose is the key word in that sentence. To keep my friendships intact, to continue to blog, I need to keep the focus on myself. For better or worse. I try not to write about other people’s interior lives (not that I could, really) or disclose details of their emotional challenges. If I do, I won’t name names, and it’s usually only done as a springboard into my own REALLY FASCINATING crap.
If I’m going to write about someone in a questionable manner, I do try to ask myself, what’s the pay-off, is it worth using this person as a foil for my writing? I try not to be capricious.
I wonder sometimes what I’ll do if I start dating someone seriously. That’s when self-disclosure really gets complicated. Don’t get me wrong, the thought doesn’t keep me up at night (especially cuz there ain’t nothin’ on the horizon). If it isn’t obvious by now, I make the rules up as I go along.
4. What is public and what is private?
For all I bare here, I reveal so little out there in the real world. There’s a handful of people who know me, who know my shit. I’ve been through more casual periods, where new acquaintances quickly got a dose of my soap opera poison, where co-workers knew my dreams, where roommates knew my sex life. With the constant barrage of Major Life Changes the past couple of years, however, my instinct has been to withdraw.
And yet. There’s this blog, this strange and wonderful form of writing that’s led me to disclose intimate details to an unsuspecting public. I’m writing again. I’m meeting great people from around the country (and abroad), who have so much to teach me. I love that life is so unpredictable.
There are some things I won’t reveal online, if only because I need a little something for myself. And no, I can’t tell you.
Writing with honesty is like diving from the high board: if I think about it too long, I’ll never move. So I close my eyes. I just jump.