We read to relate.
People like me write to relate, too. I write to get things off of my chest, I write because I think that other people around the world might feel the same way and that hopefully I can put their feelings into words to help them feel like they aren’t alone. I write because I love it. I write because there is so much to the human experience and I have something to say about it. Sometimes I am lucky enough to have a lot of people who are willing to hear what I have to say.
But I don’t write to validate the feelings, actions, or beliefs of other people. I don’t write to “get back” at someone, to expose someone, or to call someone out on a behavior that they have exhibited. I don’t write to publish all my deepest, darkest secrets on the internet like some kind of perverse diary.
And I don’t think I am alone when I say that I don’t do any of those things.
Sometimes I don’t write about me or my life at all, let alone any specific person at all. Sometimes I do write about me and my life, and maybe even something inspired by you. But to assume that certain subject matter can be directly linked to one single situation or one single person can just lead to misunderstanding.
Just like in high school or college research papers, you cannot prove your claim on one single source of information. A lot of my writing stems from a variation of experiences and people that wrap my brain up into an idea that is then exploded onto a screen and sent to my editor at Thought Catalog. Sometimes an article really has nothing to do with my life, or anyone in it. The thing is – we are all paranoid with being called out for the behavior that we exhibit and the way we act and react to things. I think this goes both ways for the reader and the writer.
I am constantly paranoid that just because I write a sad love article, people will think it’s about my current life, when it may not be at all. I also think about how when an old fling or an old friend reads one of my articles about ditching that friend who sucks or how you might find love one day, or even how you are #ForeverAlone, they will think that it is somehow inspired by them or their actions, and me writing that article was my passive aggressive way of reacting to it (which is never the case).
I wouldn’t actually have these thoughts if I haven’t been approached before by people who are close to me, assuming that every single word written is somehow a personal confession about them written for the internet and all of its people. I take the experiences in my life and use them as inspiration for what I can share with the world. My writing is the collaborative birth of personal experiences, friend’s stories, random encounters, and just thoughts that pop in my head that make me think, “this will make people think, too.”
When I write, I am never afraid to answer the question, “Was that article about me?” When deciding to publish something, whether it’s goofy or gut-spilling, I write with the confidence that if someone were to assume that it was about them, I could answer comfortably. There are times where I am sure that we stop ourselves from saying or posting or writing certain things because we know that we wouldn’t be comfortable answering the question, “Was that about me?” There is a level of vulnerability out there that is something that even as a writer who is proud of their craft, can’t open up to just yet. These are the secrets, the feelings, the thoughts that we hold so dear to us, that even as we begin to write them on the page, we tell ourselves “this is about me” or “this is about them,” and it takes a certain kind of person to be able to share that with the world.
That is the beauty of having the freedom to choose to express our thoughts in person, online, and in writing. And while I have that freedom, I understand the consequences. There are reasons why I don’t write about certain subject matters or opinions that I hold. I understand that some people will just assume something is about them and feel good about it or bad about it. I understand that some people may not agree with me and remove me from their life.
I understand all of this, which is why I write fearlessly but cautiously, knowing that some people might think it is about them and I have to be prepared to answer that lingering question. It always made me curious when acquaintances would tell me that they read most of my articles that I post. It made me curious to think what they thought when they read the articles, and who they thought I was because of what I wrote.
I think when we are confronted with things like this, the assumptions that people draw from you or the things that you do, it just confirms that the society that we live in now is more about the individual experience. It is more about “What does this have to do with me?” versus the enjoyment of the writing and opinion pieces that are out there to consider. We live in a world in which we constantly think that other people care and think about all of the wonderful, awful, ridiculous things that we do on any given day. In reality, no one really cares more about you than yourself. Sometimes the best way to put yourself in check with that is when you are freaking out about something embarrassing that you did and say to yourself, “No one really noticed. And if they did, they will probably forget about it because no one else cares more about this moment in time but you.” We are self-consumed society, and as a both a reader and writer, it is hard to disconnect yourself from that aspect of human nature to truly experience life in peace.
I used to wonder about how the people that songs were written for felt when they assumed or confirmed that a song was about them. I used to wonder how the artist felt when they released that song exposing how they missed someone or loved someone or hated a person’s guts. I used to wonder about all of these things, and how these people felt, but now I know. And I wouldn’t trade that knowledge for anything.