One of the blogs I follow recently shared the story of her fiancé calling off their wedding, and naturally the comments consist of an outpouring of support, sprinkled with a healthy dose of disdain for said fiancé. Now, my thoughts on it are that it’s a terrible situation for everyone involved and while it’s got to be heartbreaking to call off a wedding, better to do that than have a marriage end in divorce. The sooner you bail, the better in the long run, I say.
The fiancé’s brother commented, somewhat angrily, that those expressing harsh criticism for said fiancé don’t know everything, and I’ll grant that and I’ll grant that he has the right to be angry. But then he tossed in a statement about how it’s a very personal situation that he wouldn’t have put on a public blog, except that the wording–at least to me–came off as a condescending insinuation of, “I wouldn’t have said this publicly, and you shouldn’t have, either.”
Which got me thinking about the nature of blogging and writing in general.
I’ve read (and pinned and retweeted and reblogged…) tons of quotes about writing. I can’t remember who said it or where I even saw it, but there’s one about how writers see themselves as different from other people when they really aren’t. I disagree–I think most normal people live their lives without feeling compelled to write about them. I think this is why some people find it so hard to comprehend why people willingly put their lives on display for readers and vice versa. Of course not everyone is comfortable with that level of exposure, and of course they think those of us that are are insane, but in reality, putting ourselves out there prevents insanity.
In my college writing capstone, one of my classmates came in for workshop with this beautiful piece about her parents’ marriage sort of juxtaposed with her relationship with her boyfriend at the time, a boyfriend she expected to one day marry (I kept my copy of that essay–I kept everything all my classmates wrote because they were incredibly talented). But in the time between when she had written it and when we met for class, he’d told her he wanted to take a break. She told us all this before she started reading it–and with a class of six women, including the professor, we were super understanding, and the situation paired with some of the beautiful things she wrote made it really sad. At one point, she just broke down crying in the middle of it, and she got some hugs from classmates and lots of patience from a professor who I imagine had been through this many times before. It was the first time in my four years in the writing program that I saw tears in class, surprisingly, but this obviously wasn’t her first time. And among other words of encouragement, she said, “At least we’re writers and we can deal with these things through writing. I don’t know how non-writers do it.”
I started this blog out of frustration. I’d blogged through some of high school and college then let the domain die, but when I found myself frustrated with things going on around me and a ton of shit in my head and heart, I needed an outlet. Yeah, I could’ve easily kept a private journal, but blogging–putting it out there publicly–has a certain draw for me. I think it has to do with the desire to write for a potential audience combined with a desire for connection. Maybe someone will read this blog and relate to what I’m experiencing and they’ll be helped by it and feel less alone. Maybe someone will read that blog I follow and relate to a canceled wedding and they’ll be helped by it and feel less alone.
That fiancé’s brother is exactly why I have never linked to this blog on my Facebook or Twitter–it’s not that I’m hiding anything and it’s not that I want to sit here and badmouth everyone in my life, but I don’t want who is or isn’t reading the blog to compromise my honesty. And people tend to think they have a say in what the writers and bloggers in their life say. That’s why in my journalism classes, we were told never to let someone you’ve written about read a piece before it’s published because they’ll probably want to make changes, and chances are those changes will change the integrity of the piece. If you want to put out an honest piece of writing, you need to do it without its subjects looking over your shoulder–or into your cyberspace.
No one wants someone talking bad about them or their loved ones on the internet (hell, even off the internet), so I understand getting defensive and I understand wanting someone to stop saying something. But at the same time, you can’t tell a writer what they can and can’t write about, especially if you’re asking them not to write about aspects of their own damn life. Everyone owns their own stories, and as a writer/blogger, my first responsibility is to be honest with myself and with my readers. It’s unfair to ask a writer to leave out or change certain details so you come off better in the writing. To paraphrase another of my favorite quotes on writing, if people want to be written warmly about, they should behave better.
I try not to spill anyone’s secrets or display their personal drama that doesn’t involve me, but I have every right to discuss what people have said and done to me, whether that be Paul’s mom being a hellish potential in-law or the Craigs being hellish friends. The writer of that blog I follow has every right to discuss her pain on her wedding being called off–not to mention she owes it to readers who have been hearing about the wedding planning for months.
Writing is how we work through things and understand them. It’s one thing to be confused as to how that works and to even disagree with the process, but it’s another altogether to ask or expect writers to change their words based on what you want. Because most of the time, you’re asking them to craft an illusion on your behalf.