Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Writing About Writing

After hitting "publish" last week on the first installment of my haiku about running away at 16, I felt a sinking feeling and quickly added a "Chicken Shit Disclaimer," because I was afraid of sharing too much, coming off too dramatically and, frankly, losing readers who would think perhaps I'm a little too self-absorbed. I noticed some stopping by and quickly leaving without comment or kind of maybe scaring those who did more than intended, and I let it get to me (funny enough, after some time plenty of excellent comments came rolling in). I started to worry too much "what people will think," so I did the disclaimer and came damn close to pulling the post, even though I both liked what I wrote and also saw it as being relatively tame in the bigger context of my life and who I am today.

Perspective always fascinates me. I experience something one way, absorb and dissolve and come to terms with it in another, share it in bite-sized chunks and then see something else different yet again reflected back from the minds and eyes of my readers (or listeners in the case of real life because this happens there, too). What's funny about this is whole perspective thing is that when something is happening to me, I sometimes get so wrapped up in it as my own brand of normal that I forget how bold something is to someone outside of my mind.

On the one hand, anything happening in my life is "totally different and utterly unique" because it's happening to ME (kind of like the saying about it being a different story when it's your dog lying in the street kind of thing), but on the other hand I experience the opposite, too, and this is the part I find most fascinating. Perhaps because an experience is my own, and I've had years to process it and sort it out within myself, it's not as "scary" or "shocking" as it would be to encounter it for the first time unexpectedly spilling out of someone's lips or keyboard.

A real life case in point. I will never forget a particular conversation on a train ride in Japan with a Canadian friend (the first to tell me of the awesomeness that is Vancouver, BC) in which I was discussing my mom's illness and death just months before. To me, while painful then and even still now, some of the details of what it really means to take care of someone with total paralysis (my wonderful mom had Lou Gehrig's Disease - yuck), such as Mom not being able to wipe away her own tears, for a bold-ish example, were no longer as shocking to me considering the road I'd traveled. So I was explaining some things somewhat matter of factly, and I noticed that my dear-hearted friend was actually crying. I instantly felt horrible and wanted to take back all of my words and crawl into the biggest hole (the trains are not equipped with those, sadly). Seeing my friend reflect back to me my own story through her eyes astounded me and made me realize how even more profoundly sad it all really was, even more than I'd really stopped to consider standing outside of myself in a sense, maybe, if that makes sense.

A similar kind of thing happened here with the first installment of my "runaway haiku." I was kind of taken aback that it came across that scary and dramatic and kind of freaked out seeing it reflected back to me that way (I mean, I thought it was kind of tame compared to plenty of stories), and I started to feel uncomfortable that maybe I had "overshared." I know who it is that I have become as a result of all of this experience, but on the screen it just looks to some like some pretty terrifying event, probably more so from the perspective of a parent.

In the end, I did keep the post up, obviously, and I am glad I did. I also learned a few things in the process.

As much as I pay lip service to the idea of not caring what people think, I let my fear of coming off too dramatic (while actually downplaying the realities, if you'd like the absolute truth) and fear of losing readers start to get to me and almost pulled down the post, even though I was perfectly comfortable with the content itself being publicly known, and that's ridiculous. There are plenty of things I won't share publicly, but it's not like it's some dark secret that I ran away from home almost a hundred years ago or that goofy/sad things happened related to it. I'm totally comfortable with this experience in the context of my life as part of who I am today, and the lesson I needed to learn from this is that it is none of my business whether someone else is or isn't. It's interesting, sure, fascinating, even, to see how people perceive my experiences, but I can't let fear of those perceptions prevent me from writing something that begs to be told and that isn't really a secret and isn't at all harmful to me or to anyone else (those things will always be completely off limits to me out here in the public Onlines).

This is my blog, this is my voice. To those wonderful enough to listen and to hear me even when I'm afraid to "hit go" on a post like that, you are the cherry on top (with sprinkles, too!), and for that, Thank You.

PS - Yes, there will be more installments, possibly as soon as this Friday (no promises), likely to always be in haiku because that medium allows me the ability to tell something sort of difficult in a way that feels right, and I'll "chickenshit disclaim" (new verb?) again right now that it will get a little darker before it gets a little brighter.

PPS -Today is smoke-free day 414, and that also needed to be said by me, for me, with love.


  1. I missed that post because I was gone for the weekend and never caught up on all the posts. I just read it now.
    I thought it was brilliant. And you definitely did not overshare. I think people come to blogs to hear personal stories, and it is definitely personal.
    It didn't seem too scary to me either because it was a bit detached. Or maybe because it obviously turns out okay.
    I thought it was great. And very brave. I'm glad you kept it up!

    I know how it feels to want to delete a post though. I have written a number of posts that made me extremely uncomfortable and then just watched and waited for comments to come in. Waiting to see if my words came across properly or if I was misunderstood or if I had scared people away. But like you said, this is YOUR blog. And you should be able to write what you like.
    Again. I'm glad you did.

    Sheesh! Why don't I just write a freaking book while I'm at it!

  2. I know just how you feel. In regard to myself, when I go through something and tell it as a story, it's like two totally different experiences. For me, a monumental experience feels like "no big deal" sometimes. Like last year, when I wrote about my experience with September 11. It was nothing even remotely close to what victims and families had experienced -- it was just a story told by a journalist who lived there at the time and covered it, but people responded really really shockingly to my experience (in a good way -- and I even got an award for that post). And I still think it was a story of some random bystander (me) which I still think is no big deal, but other people apparently saw it as a huge big deal.

    Anyway, you're so right about that. And I am really glad you didn't pull the post. These are the type of posts that make you the blogger/writer you are. And that's why I am here all the time! Your stories and candidness inspires people!

    And honestly? I believe whole heartedly that if you're passionate enough about something that you feel the need to write about it and you're wanting to hit post, you should. I *try* (and sometimes fail) to write exactly how I am feeling or thinking, without the reader in mind. Sure, I freak out a little inside when I don't get a great response or I see no one commenting, but then I try to remind myself that my blog was always about having a place for me to write. I never started blogging to try and get readers (that's not to say that I don't love readers because man, I do I do I do!) but that for me, was just the cherry on top -- people actually reading. I hope they'll stay, but if they don't because I poured my heart out and they didn't like it, well then there's not much I can do about that.

    Oh. You wanted the short response, didn't you? Haha!

  3. Maggie, I'm glad you left it up, and I hope my comment was not one that made you uncomfortable. I think it important to share things from our past that may help another.

    I hope you continue with your story and share that which you are comfortable with. Posts like that are what make's you "real" to your readers, and I doubt it will drive them away.

  4. NO regrets, Maggie. At least in blogging.

  5. I really liked what you wrote, and like I said, to write about it in haiku form takes a lot of thought and talent. Keep on keepin on cause I'd really like to read about it.

  6. This is the story of my blogging life- so I say amen, sista!

  7. Say what you gotta say, the rest is just bull if it's bad, amazing if it's good!

  8. You say what you want to say--it's your blog :)

  9. I think what you wrote was brilliant and brave. And by writing it in haiku, it forced you to distill certain things to an essence that all could understand - that in itself, was a brilliant tactic.

    Well done. Don't stop now.

  10. Awesome. All of it. I know EXACTLY what you mean when you mention the fear of hitting "publish" and seeing an experience outside of one's self.

    I LOVE your Haiku and cannot wait to read more.

    "This is my blog, this is my voice. To those wonderful enough to listen and to hear me even when I'm afraid to "hit go" on a post like that, you are the cherry on top"- Ditto :)

  11. First time here...I like your post and did I read 414 days of being smoke free? Great job!

  12. Our words can be so powerful! No matter what we write or dont write, someone, somewhere can be affected. But we cant base our writing on what their reaction MAY be. You made the right choice. :-)

  13. I think what's amazing are the changes the growth, the maturity that happens. Life is all about the journey and some of the roads are rocky and down right scary but most of the time we manage to get to a clearing with another fork in the road, another decision to be made and usually each road we've traveled makes the next decision that much more informed.
    This is your blog, it's your story, your voice and that's why we keep coming back, we come back for Maggie, the real Maggie.

  14. I feel the same way. I have deleted some posts. Now I regret it so.

  15. I'm glad you shared, and that was not even close to over-sharing!

    I understand completely about seeing your story through other's eyes... I have many things that very few people know about me, but when I do let it out, it astounds me how shocked these people are -- yes, to the point of tears at time. I know I've been through some rough shit, but I kind of de-sensitize the experience. After all, I've already lived through it, and I'm fine now, right? But anyways, I completely understand how you feel! And please, keep sharing!

  16. Your writing on writing is profound and touches me somewhere. I too ran away at 16, I have told most of the story to the kids, but I haven't shared the story because....well I don't know. I think because even at 46 years old I still of that time as one of the best in my life (the two entire days before I got caught) and then I realize it was great because I escaped something horrible. And I don't want those days tarnished by the reasons. That makes no sense, huh? I actually had never thought about it at all until this post. That is why I love reading you...you expand my thoughts.

  17. I'm back again, thanks for dropping a line. I gave nominated you for an award, you can pick it up at my blog.

  18. I think it's a wonderful thing to be able to open up and share - and you've got a lot of friends here who know you well enough not to judge you on something that happened in your past. We know who you are now and it's those things that happened in the past (good and bad) that make us who we are today. You are a wonderful person that has encouraged so many of us in our journey's of being smokefree. I sometimes wonder if I'd have been as successful had you not found me and pulled me into your little network of Chantix bloggers. (Thanks again for that, by the way as I celebrate 8 months smoke free!)


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