Today, I did something terrifying and new… I allowed someone to read an unfinished draft of a piece I had started. One thing that this person commented on was that my writing didn’t sound like me. At first, I was offended. I mean, OF COURSE it’s me! It’s my writing! But then, I went back and read the piece, fixating on the areas that had been pointed out to me and I realized something that I hadn’t realized before, as a writer. The piece in question and, subsequently, every other piece I had written wasn’t really about me, as I had believed it to be before.
Yes, they were my experiences and my thoughts, ideas, and responses. But they weren’t written for me. It wasn’t because I was dishonest. It’s because I don’t write for myself, at least not completely.
Writing is an art form in which an individual conveys a truth. The truth of an emotion. The truth of a thought. The truth about twenty-something culture. You get the picture. As a writer, I openly confront an idea and give a perspective that is all mine, using myself as a vessel for breathing life into a concept. So why is it that, even though I’m writing about myself, it’s not really me in the words?
Because when I write about my resting bitch face, I’m writing about resting bitch face on behalf of everyone who has ever been told to smile more. When I share the awkward details of my sex life, it’s in the hope that someone will connect with me over the discomforts that come with intimacy (or, perhaps, to make people feel better about themselves as they do not have awkward sex lives). I want my readers to agree with me, disagree with me, praise me, tear my ass up in the comments, question me, and, most importantly, I want them to see themselves.
I’m not a complex person. I’ve been told I’m funny. I’ve also been told to be less of an asshole. I live an every day life, doing every day things. Writing allows me to reflect and process the world around me. Sharing my work makes me feel more grounded in myself as an individual (and, when I get published, it makes me feel cool and accomplished and like those hours spent watching Game of Thrones may have amounted to something meaningful). You can’t hide from what’s on the Internet. Once it’s out there, it’s out there.
I permit myself to be judged by my readers because I need to understand another perspective. When I write myself into a piece, I leave enough space to allow other people in. I don’t write about me. I write about everyone. It’s not just my story. It’s a story for anyone.
That’s the foundation of truth and, by further extension, the foundation of writing. All art, from music to drama to literature, is a looking glass that is held up to the creator, the audience, and to the human condition. If you don’t see yourself in the experiences of others, what is the significance of that experience? Why would we write and read and speak, if not to connect?
So, yes, when I write it is not me. It sounds like me and looks like me, but it is an experience shared by me and everyone around me. This is not dishonesty, it’s truth.