I wrote a couple of poems this morning. Nothing new in that. I do that most mornings, sitting with my emotions of the moment and writing them down. It is a kind of excorcism more than art, a way of emptying my brain before I go out into the world. I try to make it worth reading. I try to make it palatable.
That is my training after all. I went to grad school for this, forty years ago. Learned the tools of writing. Over the years I have added some, discarded some, eventually coming to a sense of style that we artistic type like to call our “voice.” Finding your “voice” brings with it its own challenge, how to keep growing, changing, challenging yourself to become more while living within the constraints of your voice. How to be true and new at the same time.
I gave up on that a long time ago. I have a voice. I have things that shaped me and are shaping me and that’s what I write about. I am less creative than expressive and I am OK with that.
Whatever I am will resonate with some people and won’t resonate with others. That is OK too. I once had visions of fame and fortune as a writer. One friend of mine told me often that she always expected to see me on the Tonight Show for my latest book. Life and my lack of discipline for the craft and craftiness of wring detoured me. Fear of failure derailed that dream. I am not beating myself up. It’s just a fact. And again, it’s OK.
I am not sure how I would have handled fame. Not for the reasons most people thing. I doubt it would go to my head or that you would find me on “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”. But the kind of writing that brings fame is not what I do. And I learned the hard way a long time ago that not being true to what I am is a road to my coming undone.
One writer I used to know is a firm believer that as a writer you share who you are with your audience. That can be real or that can be fake. For me, that slow exposure of self is a slow thing, and carefully considered. How much exposure is too much? How much do people want to know and now much is simply indulgent TMI? How much sharing can touch people in a good way and how much is, well, just too much?
“People don’t want to know your stuff.” my mother used to say. But at times, I think we do want to know other people’s stuff. Particularly if we are going through the same stuff. It reminds us we are not alone. If we fortunate enough to get through our tough stuff relatively intact, sharing that journey can help others. My little book on depression, never a best seller, has been a boon to a lot of people, some of which write me. Perhaps the most rewarding thing I have ever written.
But you don’t want to go too far in the sharing. Some people will use your vulnerabilities against you. Some will condemn you. What you are and what you are thinking might embarass some people in your life. (That’s why I almost never write about other people.).
So, a balance. Write what is true. Write what hurts. Write what brings you joy. Write of the journey. Be honest that it is not easy, but don’t show too much blood. It’s like making a mystery movie. The best ones don’t show too much.
Be well. Travel wisely,
PS: Proof that you are close to getting the balance right is that when you hear from people that you are both sharing too much and too little (depending on the reader’s opinion). If you get about an equal amount of praise and pain, you are probably dancing on the edge pretty well.