Many of you have asked me good questions about my posts on writing naked: what to share and what not to share, when to share, and what to do with the parts of those stories that aren’t yours. These questions do not have easy answers, but my friend Alise has some very helpful thoughts that shed some light on this. I’m so thankful that she is willing to share them here today.
My friend Joy wrote an amazing post about writing naked. I love her words. I love how raw and honest and gutsy they are. Not just the words in that piece, but so many more. She lives what she preaches and I am grateful for that, both as a writer and a reader.
I really, really want to do that. I want to strip down to my pale white skin on my blog and blind you with ALL of me. All of the beautiful, sexy parts, as well as the blemishes, the scars, the lumpy bits. I want to be able to flip off the critics and just write whatever I want.
And to some degree I do that. There are things I have written that I never thought I could face. Stories about rejection. Stories about the internal struggles in my marriage. Stories about my insecurities. I’ve revealed the parts of me that I embrace and revel in as well as the parts of me that feel unattractive and alienating.
But the truth is, you will never get all of me. I just can’t do it. There are some stories that aren’t for blogging. They are too close to my heart to boil down to an acceptable 500 word post. Some stories are not mine to tell. Some stories simply belong to me.
Some stories are sacred. And sometimes sacred things should be private. And sometimes private is right and good.
Knowing what not to share can be just as difficult as knowing what to share.
This is why, rather than saying that I will write naked, I would rather say that I will write unashamed.
One of the biggest inhibitions to honest writing is fear. And sometimes that fear comes about for legitimate reasons. Honest writing can result in unpleasant reactions. From friends. From family members. From strangers. No matter how much support I get when I write a difficult piece, negative reactions sting. I may laugh about them or get angry about them, but honestly, they just plain hurt.
Fear of that rejection can direct the content of my writing. It can cause me to shrink away from expressing my true thoughts. It makes me qualify and justify and hedge.
When I do that, my writing suffers. It ceases to be honest. If I’m not giving you my honest self, then what am I doing?
But sometimes shame works in a different way. Occasionally people will inadvertently shame me into writing about a story that I am not prepared to share. They will use words like “authentic” and “real” and “relevant” to manipulate me into giving away something that I want to hide in my heart. Maybe for a season, maybe forever.
Allowing this kind of shame to direct my writing can also be harmful. Giving up a part of me that is meant to be for just me for public consumption is not naked, but rather pornographic. I never want to confuse the two.
So I won’t promise to write naked for you. But I will not write ashamed.
Alise is a wife, a mother of four, an eater of soup, and a lover of Oxford commas. You can generally find her sitting behind a keyboard of some kind: playing or teaching the piano, writing at her laptop, or texting her friends a random movie quote. Connect with her at her blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter.