Write the truth

dusk

It’s Sunday night. I have a stack of papers to grade, and a movie I want to watch before I go to bed (“Hannah and Her Sisters”)…but I saw this link by Tamara Louison linking back to my post about “The Story of My Relationship With My Body” that I wrote awhile back…and I had to respond.

Her link back to this blog is a critique of my post, a critique that intrigued me. In her post, Louison states that she read my entire post (without saying whether or not she enjoyed it) and asks:

“Should blogs be censored? Do you have the right to say what ever [sic] you want on the internet? Should you have this right?”

The bottomline of her query was that my post was TMI (“too much information”)–that perhaps I should have kept some of what I said (about my eating disorder, about my struggles with my body, about my health struggles, about my past self-loathing), to myself:

“Its [sic] amazing what people are comfortable posting on the internet. I’m sure her blog may help some little girl with body image issue but I cant [sic] help but think that she should have kept some of this to herself.”

I immediately DM’d a friend and said I was confused–should I be offended? Amused?

But after a little bit of thinking, I decided that I am none of the above. I am not confused, nor am I offended, nor am I amused.

I am a writer.

Years ago, I was in a workshop with an amazing writing mentor, a writer who has given a TED talk, won numerous writing awards, gone through extreme hardship himself, and is one of the most generous people I know.

In the workshop, on the very first day, in the very first minutes, he asked each of us to provide a deeply personal anecdote about what we wrestle with.

I raised my hand. Prompted to speak, I said, “I’m a really private person.” I mean, this was the FIRST workshop; I hardly knew him, I hardly knew the writers around me, and I had a ton of heartbreak inside of me that would answer that question, but would make me vulnerable and naked in front of everyone. I did not want to share my truth.

He listened with unblinking and steady eyes, eyes that have at one point in his life faced physical and psychological torture and behind which lay a brain that withstood and survived that torture and then thrived. He said in a soft voice, “Then why are you a writer?”

I closed my mouth.

He continued and said that a writer cannot be private like that. We must share. We must put out our truths. We must be brave.

And so in that workshop, I proceeded to talk about the year I experienced deep grief: about the loss of my memory after my stroke, paired with the deep grief I felt for a family member’s sudden death–and how my memory returned and I kept remembering her in crisp relief while everyone else’s memories began to fade…and how my grief, for many reasons, made me feel so alone and out of sync with everyone else around me. I had never talked about this family member’s death in mixed company before. The whole workshop fell silent as I told my truth.

And from telling her story, I learned something about storytelling.

And that is my answer to Louison: I am a writer. I write the truth. I write my truth. And I hope my truth resonates with you, be it with discomfort or joy or solace or comfort or inspiration.

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25 Comments

Filed under Life, The Personal, Writing

25 responses to “Write the truth

  1. michelle

    You are a writer…..that sounds like a great opening for a book! “I am a writer”……she was a reader…..I am mad at her, not sure why she felt your piece was TMI, when it is your blog and she had the choice to stop reading…….I almost hear her saying “learn to edit what you put out there on the internet” and that is making me mad…..perhaps she needs to hear such a great workshop and connect the events in her life with words in such an artful way as you did in your many posts!

  2. Amen. This is like when I see blog comments that start with that awful phrase: “tl;dr” — it makes me want to block the idiot from ever commenting on a blog again. Unfortunately, I can only block such idiots from commenting on my site. Tellingly, you now have two more comments here than she has on her little post.

  3. Bravo!

    Also, I can’t help but feel that she questioned your “right” to post what you did because you’re a woman and you’re writing about your body in a deeply personal, uncomfortable, totally not-sexy, not-society-approved way. Women, Tamara included, are always being told that we’re not allowed to talk about our bodies (unless of course it is about how we can make them thinner/prettier/neater/tanner/more available for consumption/etc).

    You are so obviously a writer, and a woman, and amazing in many ways.

  4. I might suppose that if you were doing something really gross in the way of hate speech or advocating massively criminal acts or something, yeah, one might censor a blog… but just sharing more about your relationship with your body and self-image is way the hell in the black for being okay.

    Being a writer is definitely something that requires you to pull things out of your own thoughts. And talking about yourself is okay. Hedtke’s Law (http://bit.ly/aTKtbJ) says “Something that doesn’t offend somebody couldn’t possibly interest anybody.” This applies to writing, very definitely.

  5. Thanks everyone for your kind words and thoughts! And yes, @Margosita: there are strict social norms for younger, female writers and their bodies…and it doesn’t escape me that writing about my discomfort might very well bring out discomfort in others.

    @John: I think it was Hemingway who also said, “If your writing doesn’t piss at least one person off, it isn’t worth writing.”

  6. Dig it. Good answer. No one has every linked me like that, but I occasionally feel terrified that I’ve shared too much. I think it happens to every writer, especially us memoir and essay writers. My feeling is the best defense against this complaint is to write kick ass stories. “She is getting published in some of the best, most prestigious literary magazines on the West Coast, but she’s so goddamn personal.” You see? It completely drains the poison!

  7. Bobcat

    Excellent response.

    I, too, am a very private person. Too private, I feel. It can be a struggle.

    I read your original article, and I found it to be so similar an experience to mine – terrible in sports*, last to be picked, body image issues, etc. – it was surprising.

    My heart attack, at 40, was the best thing that ever happened to me. It saved my life.

    That wasn’t TMI. It was just honesty, and some people can’t handle being honest.

    It sounds like they’ve got a problem, then.

    ~bc

    * Turns out I have no depth perception… which makes it a bit hard to catch or hit a ball. My parents avoided doctors, so I had my first eye exam in 7th grade – too late to do anything about the issue at hand.

  8. Hm, which would I rather read? An honest, heartfelt, well-written and thoughtful piece about body/image relationships? Or some slapdash blog designed only to judge other, better posts/articles and question whether they have the right to exist?

    Sorry. I kept trying to think of a more tactful way to address this but came up short.

  9. This woman threw her opinion out to the Internet without reservation. Why should you not throw your own opinion/stories/etc. out here as well?

    It’s an interesting question, whether people should self-edit when posting. I see it as a matter of preference, not a should/should not. The consequences fall upon the writer, and are up to the writer’s preferences.

    As you said so precisely, you are a writer. Whether telling personal stories or constructing fictional plots and characters, this what writers–bloggers, novelists, poets, essayists, etc.–do.

  10. Eric

    I used to get similarly snarky comments when I blogged – one of, but not the only, reasons I stopped blogging. Personally, I believe you have the right to free speech in whatever form you chose to share – including blogging. You’re not infringing on anyone else’s rights or freedoms, you’re exercising your own rights. If anyone doesn’t care for that – too bad. Don’t read it. That’s their choice.
    As to the actual content? I loved the post. It wasn’t TMI in the slightest. In my experience, the writing, or indeed any creative or artistic endeavour, I have most connected with doesn’t hold back from being uncomfortable or addressing the things that cause us to feel that way. Art is meant to stir emotion, sans emotion its simply data.

  11. What makes your posts and your other writing so awesome is how honest you are. Don’t listen to that woman, and don’t change a thing! I love your writing!

  12. Nate

    I think what she meant was “Damn that’s brave.”

  13. First, I want to berate you for giving that terrible blogger any publicity at all. The irony is, between the two posts, yours and her mean-spirited response, hers would more likely be censored than yours. Just saying.

    And to answer her question presented: No. Blogs should not be censored. That blogger should not be barred from writing thoughtlessly (and fruitlessly) as she did about your beautiful, heartfelt heartrending post that certainly has the potential to do more good than that person’s entire blog, in totality. So there’s that. It’s her First Amendment right to blog with waste. Moving on.

    Finally, that woman better pray she never runs into me.

  14. great shit, Czil. inside my head, i was applauding for you after i read this.

  15. New user here.

    There’s an interview in Glimmer Train that I read with Nam Le. They ask him about writing a story with a character with cancer, and he said he learned about cancer by (in addition to other things) reading blogs. There is a certain shared emotion that comes from people sharing experiences. So I’m glad you’re writing about what you went through.

  16. Whoosh. What a powerful post.

    I felt that way in my early days of acting AND writing – I said things in public to strangers I can’t believe did. lol

  17. I wondered why she did not respond at all here–an explanation of her reasoning, some sort of human reaction, etc. I clicked on the link above, and she has since privatized her blog. HMMMM.

    (Not that I’m knocking privatization right now, but I think I have a pretty good reason! It’ll be working shortly…)

    • @BigWOWO: Welcome to the blog! I do like the blogosphere and how people are sharing their lives and experiences; it makes our big world a little smaller (and that’s a good thing).

      @52Faces: Thank you. 🙂 And I can’t even IMAGINE acting/performing my life, I give you big kudos!

      @Heather: interesting that she privatized her blog. My intention was not to attack her–but it’s interesting that her question is whether or not people should write whatever they want…and that her conclusion is to privatize her own blog. That speaks miles, doesn’t it?

  18. I read a lot of words. I can tell you straight, you really are a writer. I want to read more of your words. That makes you a writer I want to read. Result. XX

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