I wanted to post something a little more positive than the downers I’ve been tossing up here lately. This is nice post. *pets post*
Original post was a Facebook note from October 14th 2013.
Why I Write
I always find it funny — at least, ironic-funny if not haha-funny — when people say, “Wow, you write a lot of notes.” Funny because I always feel like, if anything, I don’t write enough.
Obviously I use notes way more than anyone else I know on Facebook, enough to know exactly what glitches there are and exactly how many people I can tag, and as my friends tell me, “It’s because you use Facebook notes as your blog.” But of course if I were a real blogger, I’d write a lot more than I do, or at least a lot more often.
I don’t even write a note once a week. Facebook says I have 92 notes (this is the 93rd), and that’s from about 4 years worth of postings. That’s not even 25 a year, and it’s not like all of them are hugely substantial — I have at various points posted songs (finished and unfinished), poems, fiction excerpts, school papers, my undergrad thesis (which will tell you why I write fiction, which is separate from why I write personal essays), and even once a longish status update that was just a bit too long for Facebook’s old accommodations. So maybe I’d consider around 50 of 93 to be legitimate posts. So like 13 a year of those. Barely more than one a month. Really not a lot.
My dad likes to tease me and mock the kinds of stuff I write: “I have a mole on my left shoulder — you’d never see it or know it’s there, but here I am going to tell you all about it and my complicated emotional history with it!” Ha ha. Like that’s not trivializing or demeaning at all. But this is how my dad expresses affection — he’s like me: mock and joke in person; be a lot more genuine in writing — so I try not to get too worked up about it. (Also I can unfriend him or block him anytime I want, so there, Abba. 🙂 )
The fact is, if I wrote about the things that everyone can already see, there wouldn’t be much to say. The point of writing is to communicate. If I am communicating something you already know, then what exactly have I done? As Neil Gaiman put it in his first Doctor Who episode, people are so much bigger on the inside. There are a lot of things people might think of you from seeing you on the outside. Life is a constant struggle to get people to look past those impressions and to see you, really see you. At least, my life is. I wouldn’t know about yours. Unless you decide to tell me, of course. Or write about it.
I can’t tell you exactly why I write each individual piece I write; there isn’t one reason I can tap into, which is why my posts are irregular and I can go months without posting or have 3 in the span of two weeks. But often the times I feel compelled to write are when I’ve been somewhere or done something where my insides do not align with my outsides and I need to restore my equilibrium and make those parts of myself visible somehow. So I turn myself inside out and spill my guts into writing and post it. And it helps.
Honestly, sometimes I don’t know why I feel compelled to write and post some of the things I post. Sometimes I just have THOUGHTS, and I’m not really sure anyone would want to read them or anyone would care. I know that our social media and Twitter-driven generation is derided for thinking that our every thought is worth documenting and disseminating to the whole wide world, and I don’t always think that what I write in these notes is any more than that, and that I am only adding to the infinite, exponentially growing word dump that is the internet.
So you have thoughts. So does everyone. So what.
It does suck to feel like that, since my thoughts are one of the only things I value about myself. They’re the only things that make me different, that make me not-you. Because you are already you, so if I were you too, what would be the point of me existing? (Did those pronouns track properly? I hope so.) I don’t want to be anybody’s copy, anyone’s redundancy. And since we all do so many of the same things — eat, sleep, watch TV, read books, surf the internet, shower, go to work, do laundry, wash dishes, hang out with friends and family — the only things that really differentiate us are our thoughts.
Sometimes when I write something, I know way before I post it that those 5 or 10 friends will definitely appreciate it, that X person will definitely have something to add, that Y person will have a unique perspective, and it’s great to know that in advance.
But often I don’t know why I write something, or who will get it, or why there is any reason to post it. But I’ll feel like I have to get it out and it doesn’t matter why, so I’ll do it. And often it’s those pieces that get the most intense appreciation, even if they don’t always speak to the most people, quantitatively, and usually make my dad shake his head and poke fun.
The few reactions I do get from the people who really connect — they make it so worth it. Like, “THANK YOU for writing this” and “I needed to read this” and “this made me so happy” and “this made me cry in the best way” and “this made me get back in touch with my ex and finally bury the hatchet and really forgive and move on.”
So so worth it. I’ve made friends entirely through the process of people finding and reading my writing. I’ve had casual acquaintances become closer friends because of it. I’ve had a guy basically fall in love with me because he fell in love with my thinky thoughts first. I’ve been able to keep in touch with friends who don’t have much time and to keep important and satisfying conversations going with them just by tagging them in a note. I’ve become acquainted with people purely because someone I don’t know recommended something I wrote to someone else I don’t know.
Naturally, it doesn’t always work as nicely and neatly as that. Plenty of people I meet have no time for or interest in reading my stuff. Sometimes people will only read my writing when they want to date me, and when I make it clear that nothing can happen, they stop. Sometimes people who’ve told me they love my writing and specifically requested that I tag them suddenly stop reading/liking/commenting and I don’t know why, and confronting them about it seems tacky.
But the good reactions really do blow all of those out of the water. Like there was that time I wrote a guest post for a professional baseball blog, in my usual very personal style, and the journalist running the blog had this to say:
“What a wonderfully written piece. You’re exceptionally good at this, and I’m very glad you’re pursuing it. Writing is the reason I got into this line of work. Not to break news or to meet ballplayers or watch games. I just like to write, and I love reading someone who writes like this. Best of luck in school, and seriously, thank you for writing something for the series. I’m proud to have it on my blog.”
WARM FUZZIES EVERYWHERE.
But my very favorite has to be one of my facebook encounters with a relative stranger. He graduated from my honors program a few years ahead of me, and I knew who he was but had no idea he had a clue who I was. Out of the blue, he sent me a friend request, with the accompanying message:
So aside from the obvious creepiness of this message, I want to just explain why I would like to be friends on facebook. As a member of the Honors Academy at BC, I never got a chance to talk to everyone, I realize much to my detriment I was too caught up in making friends with all the wrong people. Regardless, now having spent the past two years since graduation reflecting and occasionally reading your wonderful writing as it shows up on my feed through facebook activity of our mutual friends, I am always so inspired by your candor, honesty, and realness. I do not know you very well, but in your writing I find a sense of ‘knowing’ that is very refreshing and if anything is a result of this ‘oh-so-creepy’ message, please continue writing as we need people such as yourself to talk, share, and create space for conversation. Hope this message finds you well and good luck with the remainder of your time at BC. Hope we can be facebook friends, if not, disregard this message and lets just keep this between us, or you can share, but yeah lol. I usually am not this forward with people, but I really really enjoy reading your work.”
. . . I mean, dayum. Of course I accepted that friend request.
And it’s funny — again, ironic-funny — that I think he knew what I was trying to do before I myself really did. That I was trying to foster conversation and make safe spaces for it, that I try to do that in person and that I try to do it online. That I will be frank to the point where it can be unflattering so that people will see that they can be too, that they don’t have to censor themselves around me in the same ways they do elsewhere. It’s not that people have gotten to know each other or have conversations with each other in the comments sections of my notes (although that would be awesome), but at least they know they can have a conversation with me.
And perhaps equally important is the fact that these notes have created a standard for me to live up to. They represent the best of me, me at my most articulate and most clearheaded. While yes, I have outgrown some of the things I’ve written and I don’t have any illusions that everything I’ve written is brilliant, there is still a certain level of something that these notes make me strive to meet, when I’m writing and when I’m not writing. So I guess you could say that I think my writing makes me a better person.
But what do you guys think? If you read my writing somewhat consistently — why do you do that? (You can be honest; “Because SM will guilt me if I don’t” is a totally legitimate reason.) If you like reading it, why is that?
I’m not trying to fish for compliments here (clearly I get enough of those to keep my ego healthy, as evidenced above) — I just really want to know.