Recently I received a stern lecture on the poor quality of my blog posts and my inertia toward a hobby I’ve claimed I want a future career in. I needed to hear it because my blog posts have been either non-existent or full of suck, and I my urge to write is at an all time low.
I met with a couple of friends for dinner (in keeping with the theme of this post, I’ll call them Ms. Thang and Ms. Bomb Diggity), and one of the points Ms. Bomb Diggity brought up was how I should write about my passions, my impressions, and my experiences, and why they are memorable.
She suggested I write about all the highlights of my trip to Hong Kong. I can’t, I told her. I don’t want to spew all my personal anecdotes and feelings to the world.
She reminded me that for readers to identify with a writer, an author must be open about their innermost reactions. This is what draws people in. She’s right. No one cares about how I climbed the escalator in Hong Kong, or how I couldn’t exchange my coins back to Taiwanese dollars, or even how the ten-dollar bills in Macau are made from plastic (it’s true!). An engaging story worth reading must include my personal introspections, cogitations, and reflections on why a situation is significant.
When I think about some of the books I’ve read, I confess that David Sedaris is one of my favorite authors because he spills his guts about the most humiliating, touching, grossly touchy-feely, ugly, and unattractive parts of himself, his life, and his adventures. These are the stories that resonate. These are the ones I remember.
He jokes in one of his books how his family begs him to not write certain stories or quote things they’ve said. He always promises that he won’t, and then writes about it anyway.
How can I do that? I asked Ms. Bomb Diggity. I have friends and family that read my blog. My mom reads my blog for Christ’s sake. Do you think she wants to read about the nitty-gritty details of my life or my sexual exploits (mom, I’m still a virgin. I swear), my worst moments of sheer meanness, cattiness, and lack of humanity? How can I put that on display to my friends and my family? Conversely, how can I tell a story that involved the people I know intimately without revealing their less than sterling qualities and snarcastic remarks?
This is a problem that every writer must face, Ms. Bomb Diggity pointed out. Would the novel, Eat, Pray, Love have been so successful if Elizabeth Gilbert didn’t take that ultimate leap and write about the shittiest parts of herself and her divorce? Probably not. I just finished her follow-up book, Committed. Although I enjoyed it, the parts that I enjoyed the most were the shitty fights she had with her man, which she avoided mentioning until nearly the end, and only mentioned after repeatedly providing reasons why people shouldn’t think the worst.
No doubt, she felt her rationalizations were necessary, but reading them was annoying.
I decided to explore my feelings on this topic by hitting up my old pal, Google. Numerous articles have been written on the legalities of writing about people we know. In less than a minute, I found this article, this article, and this one, which offers advice on how to avoid problems.
And these articles mostly pertain to fiction! This article is helpful for bloggers, but it begs the question. If I have to worry this much about what I write or where I write it, then why the hell write at all, let alone blog?
Based on the Internet’s expert advice, here’s what I’ve decided to do: I’m going to give everyone the one-fingered salute and write what I want anyway. But until I hit the jackpot, and I’m making millions of dollars telling stories about how somebody I used to know had the sickest most disgusting toenails of all time, it looks like these stories will to have to go up on my ultra-secret, super sneaky, deeply undercover, hidden-better-than-the-X-Files blog that will be published from an anonymous and untraceable IP address that only aliens will be able to hack.
Sorry guys, but you’re not invited.