With SWM, Lily and I want to create the kind of content we would have loved to have access to when we were growing up. That means being frank about our fears and brave about our hopes. You know that scene in "Obvious Child" when Jenny Slate's character talks about what her underwear looks like at the end of the day? Watching that was incredibly liberating because up until that point, I literally thought I was the ONLY woman in the world who did that. That scene was super funny and a little uncomfortable and the moving picture embodiment of what I hope for with (some of) my writing.
I know something is worth sharing when I feel a little shiver pressing "Publish." It's also pretty much the best thing ever when someone messages me out of the blue to tell me that an essay I wrote brought them comfort, love, and laughter when they needed it most. It's such a gift to find that in the world and I'm always grateful for whenever I can pass that on.
But lately, I've had a lot of doubt about sharing my work. I'm hesitant to be real about my ugly moments and fleeting neuroses because I'm worried that readers will craft an incomplete picture of who I am. There's this part of me that fears that someone sifting through SWM would think I'm this stressed out weirdo whose adept at falling into self-loathing spirals and still hung up on her ex. They won't realize I'm pretty happy and healthy and hopeful, I think, Because I rarely want to write when I'm that way. So even though I only feel a stormy sadness in my soul once every couple weeks, I choose to write about that experience and not the hundred and one moments when I was peace in this wild world. I don't think about my ex very often, but a reader wouldn't know that. And my anxieties? As soon as I string 'em into sentences, they dissolve.
Writing is my sanctuary—where I go when I need to make sense of something. It's really yummy for me to write out my feels during a sweet summer evening in a sun-dappled park. My writing is almost always a way to soothe, to honor, to express, the not-so-pretty parts of me (when I'm feeling fierce and foxy, I take that energy off of the page and into the STREETS!)
And I think that's what been stopping me lately: this sudden want to be perceived as beautiful and together all day, every day. It used to feel like second nature for me to be open—vulnerability is freedom. But I've had my trust shaken by someone I was vulnerable with and I think I'm still smarting. Or maybe, I'm just learning how to take that trust and put it back into myself.
Because here's (two) things about fear of sharing: (1) You can NEVER control how others perceive you—which is DELICIOUS permission to just do you—and (2) Each one of us contains multitudes. You could have a canon of memoirs to rival the output of Joyce Carol Oates and it still wouldn't get at the whole of who you are.
Of course, we should be thoughtful about what we share and when (I try not to speak for others, exercise compassion, and NOT publish anything when I'm "writing hot.") It's also important that we support each other in whatever creative channels help us figure out who we are and how we want to be in the world. We need to remember that no single article or song or play is a substitute for the whole of who someone is.
How do you decide when, what, and where to share? What advice do you give yourself when you want to get it out into the world but are feeling uneasy? Share in the comments below—although only, of course, if it feels good to you : )