One of the strangest things I’ve experienced since starting my blog is this: readers (usually people that I sort-of-ish know) come up to me, shake my hand, tell me how much they enjoy my writing, and proceed to discuss intimate details of my life. They often use words like “inspiration” or “strength” or “struggle” and never ones I would actually use to describe myself. (Well, I have used struggle.)
I try to smile and say thank you, because the things people have said are nice—I haven’t had to deal with trolls or hate (yet). But inside my head, my response to their kindness is always the same:
I’ve had quite a few people commend my bravery and my transparency. When I write, it’s just me and the screen. It’s not hard to get the words out—at that moment, I’m the only one reading them. I’m not thinking about bravery or transparency until someone relates personal details about my life back to me and I feel as though I’ve been read. (That pun was totally intentional.)
In that moment, I feel exposed. But I wrote those words; I shared those things. I am the reason I feel this way.
I did this to myself.
I have given up my right to privacy.
There’s sort of a false intimacy that social media creates. Many readers seem to know way more about me than I do about them, but they only know about what I’ve shared—they don’t know much about me personally. Many have never seen me sob; they’ve never heard me rage; they’ve never held my hand while I’ve seized. Yet, because they have read what I’ve written, they know some pretty intimate things.
But only through my telling. Not through their own experience.
In this way, writing is sort of like being in a crappy relationship: I share my thoughts and feelings, and I don’t always get much in return. (Facebook "likes" don’t tell me much.)
So in cyberspace, I don’t really know who reads or how they respond.
But I am always most struck by the feedback I get in person. It comes like a surprise, often several days (or weeks) after the post: at the grocery store, at graduation open houses, even second-hand through friends. I hear from unlikely people in the most unlikely places. Those are the moments that I feel most heard. And it is quite flattering to know that someone takes a moment to actually read my work.
While I feel like it’s just me and the computer when I’m actually writing, I know that once those words are out in Internet Land, I have no control over who reads them. I have no control over the responses people will have to them. I surrender my control when I click “post.”
There is something at once cathartic and paralyzing about writing and being read. It is healing for me to get the words out, and hearing about how my blog has touched others is awesome—it’s a writer’s dream. Even still, I often have to talk myself into sitting down to write the next post. I feel naked and afraid. I have to conquer those fears to share my story.
Perhaps this is what people meant when they said I was transparent and brave.