My favorite books and articles are the ones that let me into places I didn’t expect to gain access—the backstage pass to someone’s life.
This type of writing is also the way I lean when my fingers hit the keyboard. If I’m honest to the subject matter, my words will slice the skin and leave me exposed, raw, and vulnerable. That’s where true emotion lives and where I can best connect with others. I’m wasting my time and yours if the words I write fail to penetrate and cling to you.
We live in a world of oversharing on all too many social networks, but most of that is illusion. It’s either fluff about someone’s latest meal or details constructed to support a social facade. That’s all well and good—and probably sensible in many cases—because personal information sharing can lead to discrimination or retaliation, if the wrong details are leaked.
The problem with social network content is that people think that everyone else is doing fantastic and living the ideal lifestyle. Everyones lawn looks greener than yours, which can be damn depressing. Even I’m careful about what I post to Twitter or Facebook.
But when I’m writing articles, I work to lay myself bare. In order to make a difference in this world, I need to take a risk and share things that expose blemishes and scars. As a writer, I can’t be both honest and safe. If I have no flaws, then I’m a horrible subject for articles. No one is perfect, which means that no one can relate to my articles if they are about perfection.
I’ve been complimented in the past for being brave in my writing and for revealing so much. The compliment is always appreciated, but the fact is that I’m always afraid. I’m afraid that if I don’t dig deep enough with my words, I’ll become irrelivant. Useless. Just another droning voice in the noisy internet. It’s not me being brave, it’s me handing out the only content that I think will be worthwhile. I’m selling all that I have to keep you around long enough in the hope that something I write clicks. I fear that my mistakes will count for nothing but a checklist of items I didn’t do well enough. If I expose enough details of my struggles and failures, you may find a connection. There may be common pain and shared emotions where my writing helps you feel less alone during your transitions. My secret weapon to being useful is my ability to scrape together enough courage to get past my fear that you will scurry away when I disclose my flaws.
I’ll let you in on another secret of mine: Most of my articles are written as a stream of consciousness. If I don’t start writing when the thought or emotion hits me, chances are I’ll never finish it. Too many words of mine have withered and spoiled because I didn’t deliver them on time.
I’ve become more decisive and better at triage. What did I just write? Was it real? Does it still have a pulse and can I save it with surgery or do I pull the plug?
I’m doing that now with this article.
Why do you care about why or how I write? Maybe this will help you to begin writing. Maybe it answers questions you have about me. Or maybe this one bounces off the surface of your skin. That’s okay: being vulnerable means accepting the misses as well as the hits.