Today I received this email and asked the author of it if I could reply as a blog post.
I often read your blog, as you can probably see and I truly do admire how carefree and honest you are. I know it sounds a little silly, but since I realized I was reaching a large group of readers and they’ve all expressed their likes and dislikes, I find it really hard to stay true to me. What was once an outlet slowly started to feel like a job, a job that consists of pleasing the masses and shielding the world (and family) from the truth and drama that is my life.
How do you manage to stay open and honest? Have you mastered the balance of what to share and what not share?
Three years ago on a mild spring day in New Orleans I got the word “Free” tattooed on the right side of my body. The ink rests on a small patch of skin typically covered by my bra. For those who have seen it, it’s often mistakened as being my name because of the swirly and somewhat unidentifiable cursive it’s written in.
It was the last day of my junior year spring break and we all decided to get tats on a whim. Because that is how tats work–you either have some grand and philosophical motive for getting them or you get them on impulse. I didn’t know precisely why I wanted that word on my body, I just knew it was an adjective to which I aspired. Free from worries. Free from caring about what others thought. Free from a lot of the bullshit. So I got a physical manifestation of something I could only achieve mentally. Makes sense. Or not.
When I read the email earlier, I was taken aback in a flattering way because I certainly don’t consider myself carefree. Honest? Sure. But, carefree? Probably not the first word people would use to describe me. I live in my own overanalytical mind where things hardly ever happen without planning, thought or consideration. I am not the kind of person who books a weekend trip on a Friday afternoon. Hell, I’m not the kind of person who takes a trip without a complete list of things I need to do before leaving. I always pack extra underwear. I don’t like impromptu sleepovers (nope, not even those…) I like to know the details of anything before saying yes. Carefree? More like neurotic.
But, it’s a little different when it comes to my writing. And, I guess that’s what we’re talking about here.
I lucked out in the sense that I had a good year to build this blog before anyone really knew or cared. I’ve been blogging in the same “sarcastic but always with a message” sort of way since college and it went virtually unnoticed. So I had time to find my voice and get into a groove without being vulnerable to the responses of others.
Last summer, right as the blog picked up its first bit of serious attention, I finally told my parents about it. Not just “Oh, yeah, I have a blog.” But, “Here is the URL if you want to read it.” And now they do. Pretty much every day. Soon after I introduced them to it, we had a few slightly contentious conversations about my chosen topics and my frequent drop of the f-bomb. My parents know I love them and I value their input. But, my writing is not something I really budge on. I listen to feedback. I read comments. I hear people. And, then I still do exactly what I want to do with this space. You can love it. You can hate it. I’m still going to speak my truth.
In terms of what I will/will not share, the two things that are exclusively off-limits are any specific details of my 9-5 life and my sex life. For the 9-5, I need to remain gainfully employed. Duh. And, as far as my sex life, I just think it’s implied that I’m a big girl and I do what big girls do. Not much of a need to discuss it beyond that. Not that I have a problem with people who do. It’s just not what I’m about on this blog. Whether or not anything else is off limits is pretty much on a case-by-case basis. But, yes, as a blogger, you need boundaries. You need the things you keep for yourself. Otherwise you’ll lose your damn mind because people will think they can assume some really shitty and inaccurate things. They’ll think they have some right to jump to conclusions about your life all because of one sentence you wrote. Draw the line in the sand.
Perhaps this is all a lengthy way of saying own it. Own your space. Own your brand. Own your voice. Own your shit. There are few things I will hold back about on here because no one wants to read some sugar-coated bullshit. People want to see other people. They want to see the mistakes, the screw-ups, the wrong decisions. I expose my wounds because I really would not be half the person I am without them. I write my insecurities because it’s the only way I can wrap my mind around them. And, if people don’t like what I do on this blog, well, there are a million others out there that they can read. That’s like a customer threatening to stop giving its business to a company; that company doesn’t actually give a fuck. That company has a bunch of other loyal customers who will support it. I am forever grateful for my small but loyal army of supporters.
To my email friend, if there’s anything else I would say, it is that you started blogging because no one else can say what you say quite the way you say it. That is why you started. Remember why you started. Because no one else can speak your truth the way you can. If that truth makes people squirm or shout or shun you, it means you are doing something right. If your words make people uncomfortable or angry, it is a reflection of them, not you. It is a projection of their own reality. You were just the conduit to them looking at themselves and their lives and some people don’t like that. They don’t like when they read something and it suddenly uncovers all of their life’s ugliness that they have tried for so long to mask. But, good writing is not a kum bah yah kind of sport. Good writing doesn’t always make people feel warm and fuzzy inside. No, good writing makes people think.
Remember why you started. Please, remember why you started.
And then keep going.