Update: The Good Men Project actually decided to run my little rant =)
Sometimes, I just need a little prompting.
Do you write for yourself, or for an audience? Do you write to tell a story, or to change the hearts and minds of men?
I write because I can’t, not, be honest.
Otherwise, I’d be going up to random strangers, shaking them profusely, admitting with wide-eyed conviction some deep-seated guilt or expressing an epiphany like an enlightened being. (Or a creepy one.)
Writing feels like an emptying.
It is like having a jar of sand that I open, and the contents of which I scatter out on a surface and sift through hollow seashells and shards of glass and jagged rocks and little stones that were once sharp rocks, smoothed over time. But mostly I’d have a lump of damp sand, once so densely packed, that it made the jar heavy.
The more I pack into my little jar, the more burdensome it becomes to carry. So I spill some of it onto a page, or scatter traces of it on a public blog post. It needs some other place to contain it, outside of myself.
That’s a little bit of what writing is, and what it does, for me.
For me, and surely for many, writing is at first, self-serving.
It is therapy. It is catharsis. It is unapologetic self-absorption. It is the hoarding of all the best recollections of things. It is the setting free of all the worst.
But once the words are read by another, the writing morphs into an entirely odd and frightening beast. That which was, at first, a platform for the individual becomes a spark for conversation, a reason for dialogue, and an opportunity for community. And then, it gets scary.
But if it were to remain too private — if too carefully stashed away for any wrath or embrace to welcome it — well, wouldn’t that be a shame?
Maybe, of course, the only kind of honesty I know to practice is the messy, navel-gazing, endlessly questioning kind, revealing raw ideas and sleeve-worn feelings.
But it’s mine, the whole lot of it, and the writing — the public writing especially — gives my brazen words their audience.
My honesty wouldn’t realize its own transformative potential, were it not subjected upon the immediate whims and fancy of the public sphere.
It needs to know if someone on the other side of the world is listening and nodding. It needs to know — I need to know — that there are others saying, “Yes, me too.”
Ultimately, then, the writing becomes a remarkably humbling process — because with it comes the risk of bearing one’s soul so openly, without ever knowing for sure if it will be accepted, let alone, understood.
Regardless, after such a risk I can only expect, if nothing else, a profound relief.