Monday, April 27, 2009

something about being real

So, I haven't blogged in a while. That's not exactly true--I wrote a blog last Wednesday, this weird hybrid thing between being frustrated and venting and being analytical. But then I felt like it was too much on the frustrated side to be kept up, and so I took it down. And I've been thinking about how I need to blog ever since then, but I haven't seemed to be able to do it because the things I'm thinking about feel like they're too much for up here. But then, what is this if not a place to be real?

Being in college, if nothing else, has taught me so much about myself. I know they say that, that you discover who you are and blah blah blah in college, and I don't exactly mean that. I just mean that I am (and am not) a lot of things I didn't realize until now. I am absolutely an introvert. But I love talking people, having real conversations about real things--and honestly, though I'm better at it now, I'm no good at small talk anyway. But then that's not true, exactly. Because I am awkward, painfully so, but I use it (sometimes well and sometimes not). I've got to have my downtime--usually I'm by myself reading or watching movies or reading blogs, but I can do it with other introverts and be okay--like with one of my roomates, Hodges, the two of us can be in a room all day with each other and both feel recharged while we both get drained from being with Alicia. Unless it's one of those days where her energy gets me going.

And then there's this thing about wanting to be real. This is true, but I think I've been tricking myself all along. I want to be real, I am real. I'm honest, and I'll tell you about these things that have happened in my life that should be hard for me to tell, that other people never talk about at all. But I'm beginning to wonder if it's what I think. If--and if this even makes sense--I'm being real but keeping it on a superficial level, some distance from myself. Being vulnerable, yes, but somehow removed. I'm hardly sure how that even works, except somehow I think I'm managing it.

I've been reading Dave Egger's A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and there's a part in the book where he's being interviewed (actually it's a device, but--) and he talks about sharing these things of his, some awful, with the whole world.

"I give you all of the best things I have, and while these things are things that I like, memories that I treasure, good or bad, like the pictures of my family on my walls I can show them to you without diminishing them. I can afford to give you everything... These things, details, stories, whatever, are like the skin shed by snakes, who leave theirs for anyone to see. What does he care where it is, who sees it, this snake, and his skin?... None of this is mine. My father is not mine--not in that way. His death and what he's done are not mine. Nor are my upbringing nor my town nor its tragedies. How can these things be mine?... I own none of it. It is everyone's. It is shareware. I like it, I like having been a part of it, but I do not claim exclusivity. Have it. Take it from me. Do with it what you will. Make it useful. This is like making electricity from dirt; it is almost too good to be believed, that we can make beauty from this stuff."

I am losing nothing. I read this and I haven't been finished the book but I'm certain this will remain my favorite part. Because, with writing, this is exactly how I feel. When professors have wondered how I can share really personal things in stories or essays without hesitating. Well there's your answer. I'm not doing anything. It's not that I'm able to do anything better than anyone or that I'm being more real or anything--because what does the snake care?

I do care, but I'm saying that all this being real, it isn't what you think. And if anything, I wish I could close that gap. I just feel like there's something missing in it. And even as I write this I realize--here I'm thinking about sharing hard stuff, talking to people, younger students, that kind of thing--it can be done without any real connection. And often it is. I can show you this, I can bare all of me, and then you can do that too, and somehow, some unbelievable way, we can walk away without having connected, without feeling any closer to one another, without our lives touching at all. How is that? That skin has been shed. Here it is, look at it, you see? But it's no longer mine to be vulnerable with, it's no longer close enough to mean too much. And honestly, putting it out in a blog on the internet for anyone to see--well that makes it even less personal. Maybe that's why I removed the blog I wrote before? There's still plenty in me I haven't let anyone see, things that do stay close to the heart.

I was going to repost that blog. There are parts of it (the more thinking parts as opposed to the feeling parts) that I did want to share. So maybe I'll just edit some stuff and put up pieces. Honestly I'm not sure where to go with this. I know there's a level of privacy I want to maintain, but I also think that... I don't know, why do things happen except that we might share them, help one another, be encouraged?

Any thoughts?


  1. I think it's a line we draw and then re-draw and then re-draw, and so on. It's the memoir writer in you. In some contexts, you're praised for sharing more-more-more, every graphic detail. But then there are other contexts where you're not sure of the reaction ahead of time. Just because we can share something, doesn't mean we should. And just because we can withhold, doesn't mean we should. This is neither helpful nor particularly coherent, so I apologize. All this to say, I get it. You'll figure it out. You'll draw your line, then completely disregard it one day and either decide the line was fine right where it was, or that it needs to be re-drawn again. This is such a writer's problem to have. :)

    When we see other people being real, it gives us the courage to follow suit. But at the end of the day, maybe being real and vulnerable is more for the person being real than it is for her readers/audience/etc.

  2. Everything you wrote in this post really resonates with me. I definitely do that sharing-personal-stuff-but-still-feeling-distant thing, and I do it by only telling people what's going on inside me after I've already examined and analyzed it. I only let people see snapshots of things that have happened already, never the turmoil at the moment it is going on...

    p.s. In case you're wondering who the heck I am--I randomly found your blog when I searched for people with xkcd listed as an interest and saw there was someone who also liked C.S. Lewis. :)

  3. erin--for some reason, ''this is such a writer's problem'' is one of the coolest things i've heard all week. i'm still in that one-day-i'll-be-a-writer state of mind, as opposed to, published or not, i am writing now.

    and i think you're right about being real being more for ourselves. and it feels the same with writing on here. i do it to share, but ultimately it's for myself. good way to keep from going too crazy =)

  4. and jfille! that's really cool, i'm glad you found my blog. it's neat to think someone i haven't harrassed about it or who's been linked from facebook/already knows me is reading it. and oh yes, i am quite a c.s.lewis fan =)

    and that makes so much sense the way you put it, particularly because i do that--analyze and examine and try to make sense of--before i say much, and i don't think i realized it fully until you put it that way.

  5. When people ask me what I do, I am much more likely to tell them I'm unemployed or that I'm "between jobs" or that I'm a freelancer or that I "work from home" -- anything to keep from saying I'm a writer, which still feels a little bit dishonest, even though it's what I so desperately want to be. I still have trouble shaking the perception that you're only a writer when someone is paying you to write. And as a "job," that's true. But being a writer is something very peculiar in that it can be more of a state of mind than a job, and I do think you can be a writer long before you have the job of being a writer. (And I always felt like I would feel validated once I had "been published," but I've found that doesn't really help, because there are a thousand ways to still feel insecure--must be published again, must be published in a larger publication, must be paid more for said material published...)

    At any rate, I believe in you as a writer in the most ridiculous, embarrassingly sappy way. I really do, and I have from the first time I read your writing. You can go somewhere with this. You are a writer, even if that's not your "job" yet.