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Not Naked, and Not Ashamed ~ A Guest Post

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.

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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.

female figure naked

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.

laugh

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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.

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I generally post 1-2 times per week. You will only receive an email from me if I have posted something new. I hate spam and promise never to send it to you.

Comments

  1. Not ashamed – this is so good, thank you, Alise. Is there something Edenic about it perhaps?
    And I totally agree with what you say about the naked vs pornographic thing. It’s a subtle difference – usually by the way people ask you, it just makes you feel slightly uneasy.
    I have loved Joy’s linkups (are you doing life unmasked this year, Joy?) – and this week I am being decidedly unpolished. But that is okay. Thank you, ladies.
    Tanya Marlow recently posted..BootsMy Profile

    • Tanya Marlow says:

      D’oh! Just read your last post explaining about the link up. All is now clear :-)
      Tanya Marlow recently posted..BootsMy Profile

  2. Well said, Alise. One of the things I like best about both Joy and your blogs is that you two do share so much through the personal. You talk about things through your experience rather than from some lofty place of abstract. It is so important that when we share from the personal we respect ourselves in the process–knowing when to hold back, not out of fear per se, but out of reverence. It is also important to respect the parts of our stories that are not ours alone, and share those with care when we see fit. I think both of you ladies do that admirably in your own ways.
    Veronica Ibarra recently posted..Confessions of a Gamer MomMy Profile

  3. such an important distinction, Alise. thank you.
    ed cyzewski recently posted..Doing Justice: Announcing a New Guest Post SeriesMy Profile

  4. Such a great distinction about the difference. No, we should never really be forced to share something, even if someone else thinks it will benefit others. I agree that some stories are meant to be preciously held close.

    Thanks for sharing.
    Heather recently posted..Yale RecapMy Profile

  5. Vicki Scheib says:

    I really like this, Alise. The distinction is helpful.

  6. Alise, I love your unabashed writing. You do right, woman. Also, the image is stellar, as is Joy’s red lipstick. But, yes. Some stories are not ours to tell. And that is tough, if we are part of it he tale. You are smart and you make smart writing decisions.

  7. Unashamed. That’s a great way to put it.

    Not always easy for those that are ‘people pleasers’ by nature. No matter what it was that caused us to become people pleasers (nature vs nurture argument underlying that thought), worrying about what people think becomes second nature, automatically filtering what we do and say. Writing, speaking, building friendships with opposite gender…. all seem to automatically go through the internal, people pleasing, “do I need to worry or be ashamed about this?” screening process.

    Unashamed. Be yourself. Don’t take your worth from other’s opinions of you. (What you wrote ties nicely to a sermon I heard the other day.)

    Good post, Alise. Thanks for having her, Joy.
    Dan McM recently posted..That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.My Profile

  8. Very well said. I’m crazy busy most of the time and don’t get the chance to blog much. My life is full of all these really amazing encounters with so many people. Most of the amazing stories that I hold in my heart are connected to others and what is going on in their lives. They are stories of grace, mercy and redemption… but they aren’t my stories alone. One day hopefully I’ll be able to share some of them with others. In the mean time I’m just thankful to have a ring side seat to see the miracles of true life and transformation happen in my friends lives, and for the bond that we share together. There are things in my own life too, and in my life with my husband and our struggles with illness that belong to us alone. It’s a fine line learning how to find the ballance with it all. :)
    Linda B. recently posted..Important Things I Learned From My Husband …My Profile

  9. Unashamed…I like it. That distinction is necessary, I think. There are things that are meant just for us to hold in our hearts, much like the way Mary treasured certain things in her heart.

    I wrote about this same struggle yesterday…what to share versus what not to share. It’s a little frightening to put some stuff out there. There can always be negative repercussions when we tell personal stories, because our stories do involve other people. But I have determined to write unashamed of my place in my story. I am not ashamed of what God has brought me through and the way in which He has molded me.

    Thanks for sharing. Your words are very encouraging.
    Sherry recently posted..Struggles and ClarityMy Profile

  10. YES. I really resonate with this. I hate that ‘after-I-bore-my-soul-into-cyber-abyss’ feeling, wondering if I showed too much skin, and if I showed it in the way I should have, in the way that was best {for me and the reader}. Thank you for sharing, Alise.
    Karen Yates recently posted..More on Books: My 2013 "TO-READ" list (as of today)My Profile

  11. This is a helpful delineation, Alise. (and Joy) Thank you for articulating that. I have struggled with this too…at times I haven’t wanted to say much more but my husband believes I all ready say much too much. I have even taken down posts that I love to try and bring some helpful reconciliation into this marital holy war of ours. But then, i have noticed there are things I just shouldn’t say. at all. It’s been helpful for me to self regulate without my hubby breathing down my neck about what he’s comfortable with…consequently, we’ve both been happier with that arrangement. I think it does take a level of thought & maturity to get to where you are…and I’m not completely there yet, but i’m on my way. Kudos!
    grace at {gabbing with grace} recently posted..So. I’m in my late thirties nowMy Profile

    • As long as maturity is used in the context of “screwed up a lot and generally remembers how bad stuff was,” then yes. I’m a more mature writer now. ;-D

      Seriously, figuring out how to share your part of a combined story without hurting someone else can be pretty hit or miss. I’m getting better at hitting and am profoundly grateful for the grace I’m shown when I still miss.
      Alise recently posted..Not naked, and not ashamedMy Profile

    • Grace, that part about self-regulating so your hubby doesn’t always find himself in the position of blog police? THAT. It took us a year-ish to get there because I hate being told I can’t do something (it’s a flaw), but I love him and I realized that he was right about some of it and my love for him covers the rest of the it. I’ve also finally absorbed something he’s been telling me for YEARS – that I can be open and real with people, but I don’t have to be the same level of open and real with EVERYONE. In fact, it should be like concentric circles, in which I’m all me in a small inner circle of people that we both trust with our whole selves, and it isn’t hypocritical or fake to be less revealing in outer circles.

      Maybe I should post about that….

      P.S. It’s so nice to know that someone else struggles with this same thing! Thanks for sharing.

  12. Margaret @ Felice Mi Fa says:

    Well put, Alise. This really resonates with me. I reveal a lot in my writing, not as any sort of tactic, but because its how I’m wired. But there are things I hold back (especially when there are other stakeholders) and I do so with intention.

    Your point about being shamed into revealing more than you want to was one that hadn’t occurred to me before. I often see this in retreats and faith sharing – there’s a rush to reveal the worst of us, to touch the most painful nerve as quickly as possible because that’s the only “authentic” thing to do.
    Margaret @ Felice Mi Fa recently posted..Maybe I should have messed up my life more.My Profile

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