Blogging / Writing

Fragments of Self

In 1994, long before blogging existed, one of my favorite writers, Ann Lamott, was quoted in her book Bird by Bird Some Instructions on Writing and Life, as saying:

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

These words stood behind me like a bouncer at a nightclub. It was my protection. My push to write without fear. To put out into the world my own truth.

Okay, it actually meant that I journalled honestly, without trying to be cryptic in case someone found my secret hiding place (under the mattress) and got offended by the scribblings of a teenager, college student, or young adult. While I came to Ann’s writing via her churchy words, like Plan B Thoughts on Faith, it was such a sigh of relief to see, that I could own my own truth, in words, guilt free.

Except. Well. You know, she wrote those words in 1994. When writing meant drafts on the computer sent to an editor and sent back with revisions. It mean crafting ‘shitty first drafts,’ and getting outside advice from a few trusted writerly types, and then publishing a book at the end of it. It was NOT the same as blogging. Do I think the words still apply? Yes. Do I think they need to have some context to them? Yes.

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I spent one summer after my son was born in a passive aggressive Seattle Chill with my sister-in-law over a blog post I wrote. I had been published by the now defunct OffbeatFamilies, and sent a link out from the article for some facebook friends to read. Of course she tracked it back to my blog, and then, in my opinion, went trolling for something to be mad about. In truth, it probably went more like this: A) read article, B) went to blog, C) read past entries, searching for a reason why our relationship had been strained, D) read between the lines, E) got mad. Or something like that. Maybe? I don’t know.

But what I do know, is that I think, and feel, and write all in one fell swoop. And without the 1994 constrains of editing, I have the habit of writing stream of consciousness and then poof, publishing, in one cathartic swoop of relief. And once it’s out of my psyche, I often forget it even exists, but then it’s there, for friends or family to go back, or relive in live time. I often write things out that I don’t necessarily feel the need to talk about in person, because at the end of the day, they’re no big deal. Or they’re something that written but not spoken words need to be put around. Or I’m introverted and I like the way words sound on the page, but my screaming obscenities and chucking a hairbrush across the room when I’m feeling particularly feely is not going to get the message across any better.

Ann puts the onus of responsibility on the doer of the actions that upset inspire the writer. But does that work for blogging?

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Blogs have seemed to be fragments of my self. There was LiveJournal and then Myspace and then Blogspot and then a various handful of WordPress blogs started over the years. All coming closer and closer to just being me. And this IS me, without being me, in name, because the obsession with privacy from work as a counselor and teacher. But these fragments get exhausting. I shared one blog with a handful of people and then when I was angry I had to think “shit, should I write about this, that person is going to see it. What about if my parents saw that?” Because being a chameleon is something I’m used to. An adoptee trait that I’ve commiserated with my other adoptee-activist friends. This changing to fit in, this desperate need to be true to self but not wanting to just piss people off for no good reason, this idea of holding things close to our chest without wanting to reveal too much to everyone.

To some I’m X and to others I’m YZ, and still to others I’m XYZ. How much do I want to just lay it all out there and how much do I want to avoid the backlash from friends or family by being out in all the controversial aspects I could be?

Telling my stories is scary. Integrating is scary. It’s easier to just write about others and hide behind the quote that they should have simply behaved better. Maybe I should have behaved better, too.

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