The Trouble With Writers

We think… a lot.

And then there’s the obsession with words. Words mean things… we love that. On a good day, we can reach up into the mess swarming inside our heads and wrestle and wrangle bits and pieces of it into a few choice words and phrases that bring the chaos into some degree of order. And then we like to put those words in print, and publish them before the entire world. And for some reason, we truly believe they matter. We want to be heard. Granted, I think this is true of most people. We all long to be heard, truly known and deeply loved. But the trouble with writers is that at the end of the day, we are open books, and whether or not our words are understood, they are out there. And then aren’t ever not out there again. And once we are heard, we cannot be unheard.

At least for me, words always take their casualties.

As a writer, and someone who “blogs” it is particularly complicated, because as I attempt to share my perspectives and heart, it simultaneously invites the world into the conversation. At large, this is fantastic, ideal even. In fact, this is precisely what us writers long for, to engage others with our words and stories that they might enter into the dialogue along side us. But, there is also always the chance that we will be misunderstood. And as a non-fiction writer, someone who writes as a response to everyday life and circumstance, the likelihood that my work will be misinterpreted is greatly heightened.

large_writing_problemsWords have always played a particularly significant role in my life. During those Who-The-Hell-Am-I years [namely junior high and high school], I quite literally depended on words to help get me through it all. But words are peculiar and fickle friends; they mean things, and yet they are not bound by the strict confines of objectivity. Because we assign meaning to words based on our experiences, I can say one thing, and what my audience hears and the images conjured up, while they may be related, ultimately differ from my own. This is every writer’s dilemma. Words are a fantastic instrument and hindrance in the same sweeping stroke.

The trouble with writers is that we write. We write what we feel: our deep convictions, our questions, our conclusions when they come, and then our doubts about said conclusions. We write when we’re sad, and sometimes when we’re happy. We write when we’re frustrated, and sometime when we’re content. We write when we’re disappointed, and sometimes when our expectations are exceeded. But as a general rule, we write from the spaces of dissonance because it helps us process and make sense of our junk. And as we attempt to draw meaning out of the contention, we tell stories. Stories that involve people we love. And well, that’s complicated territory no matter who you are.

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I once heard it said that if you didn’t want to be the subject of a top charts country song, you shouldn’t have dated Taylor Swift. That’s a fair statement, and as a fellow writer, I can relate.

If you don’t want to be featured in my writing, then you probably shouldn’t be a part of my life. If you’re a big enough presence, at some point, you will influence my work and people will probably read about it. Now chances are, this will not be something you regret. Likely, it will be because you inspired or sharpened me. But chances are, it will be nuanced, because life is nuanced, and well, I learn lessons the hard way.

And yet, at the end of the day, chances are, the most significant audience this will affect will be my family and dearest friends; those I love the most. This is a difficult tension for me to contend with. Take my family for example: they are the most incredible gift I have ever been given. In a million years I couldn’t reason with you why I should deserve to be on set with such an outstanding cast of characters. Through the good, bad and the ugly, they have been there beside me and taught me innumerable, invaluable lessons I wouldn’t take back in a million lifetimes. And because they are such an integral part of my story, they often assume significant platforms within my writing. The same goes for my closet friends. But as a writer, many of these lessons: good, bad and ugly alike, become available at some point for public consumption. I am not suggesting that this is always right, but I am saying that it’s real.

This issue is a compelling one for me lately because the more I write, the more I find myself hyper aware of every single word, constantly editing and censoring. But the more I censor, the less honest and authentic I can be.

And it’s exhausting. I will never write/publish anything out of a place of anger or hatred. That is never where my heart is. However, if you walk with me through challenging waters, it will take challenging and real words to describe those experiences. And so I wrestle with my desire to honor the privacy of those who don’t choose to publish their diaries before the world wide web, and the need that exists in my innermost being to put into words what I am experiencing, because 99.99% of the time, the richest lessons I learn unfold for me while I write. I think a lot of writers can relate to this phenomenon.

So what’s the point exactly?

The point is this: as a writer, I write. I will always write. And if I’m not writing in one form or another, it’s safe to assume I’m not well. I can’t not be who I am. Furthermore, part of knowing who you are, is knowing who you are not, and [as I stated previously] I am not a fiction writer. I write based off life experience, and as such, I am going to write about things that are real. The real good stuff, the real hard stuff, and everything in between, because it’s worth being written. And writing is never conveyed as powerfully as when painted with precise examples and stories; such is the place from which the greatest connections are made with ones audience.

Life is chalk full of all sorts of beauty and disappointment. And I would argue we would never be able to appreciate or take notice of the beauty before us if we didn’t simultaneously know disappointment. Generally, in my humble experience, it is the marriage of the two that makes it all so rich and worth it. And there is a tremendous amount to celebrate in all of it. So if I write about the hard stuff, you can bet that there is deep, rich beauty brimming beneath the surface of it all, and good things are certain to be unearthed in the process. If I write a post, or a book someday, and you find yourself a key character, know that I’m deeply thankful for your inspiration and the fruit of the lessons therein. Even if you were a difficult chapter, you were [and are] absolutely loved and worth it.

And if one day you are reading as an outside observer, and you happen upon a passage that grants you a particularly vulnerable peek into my world or my family life, and you are tempted to assume you have seen the big picture, please, remember that a single chapter is not representative of the entire story. It is simply a chapter, doing its work to refine the characters.

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4 thoughts on “The Trouble With Writers

  1. This is a wonderful post! I agreed with so much of what you’ve written. Lately, I’ve been recognizing the huge differences between writing a personal essay blog and working on a piece of fiction. The writing is dramatically different in terms of everything from grammar to the subjects about which I write. I found myself thinking “that’s exactly it” when you said that you were learning while you wrote. I understand myself and the world more after I’ve written about it. It’s a strange and amazing thing and often difficult to explain to non-writers, but you’ve made a very good attempt! Thanks.

    • Thank you Michelle! I completely know what you mean. I don’t technically write fiction, but there are the times I write more creatively or abstractly, and that changes everything. And yes, the concept of learning as we write is the very reason I feel as though not writing simply isn’t an option for me. I’m a complete mess if I don’t have that outlet!
      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!

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