It’s Never About You

I had a writing professor tell me to never share anything you write until it’s published, because nobody wants to see themselves in a story. I’m sometimes reminded about how true this is.

It’s never about you.

I don’t have a large readership, and I don’t receive much feedback on what I write on this blog. But!, sometimes I do hear from people about what they think about what I’ve written. The feedback that I get most often is from people who are unhappy about something.

Everything that I write on here is, primarily, about me. Don’t forget how narcissistic blogging is.┬áSure, you may identify with something I’ve written, but the post is never about you , and is in no way a dedication to you (unless I call you out).

Yes, I draw on my experiences to inform my posts. Yes, you may have been a part of my experience. Yes, you didn’t know/think that I was going to blog about it when it was happening. Yes, you really don’t know me.

Now, I don’t mind criticism. In fact, I adore it. I want to be a better writer, and I want to write about things that people actually want to read about. I want to create engaging, informative stories that people read and think about.

One thing that people are most interested in is other people. The tabloids wouldn’t exist if this weren’t the case. Stories without people in them wouldn’t be stories. They’d be dry, meticulously researched papers about atoms or subatomic particles or some such thing.

If ever you think I’m writing about you, I implore you to stop and think about why. Aren’t stories meant to reach people? To touch them in some significant way? Aren’t our lives just one big story, being written in serial fashion? Aren’t all of our stories connected, intertwined, and relatable?

Stories create compassion and understanding. They create strife and hatred, too. They explore the depths of who we are, as people in society in direct contact with other people. They establish, in a very real way, the narrative that retells our impromptu existence.

Stories are calculated, worked, rewritten, and vetted. And, unlike journalism, they are fictitious. No matter how real they may seem to you, and no matter how much you identify with the characters in the story, it’s fake. It’s a selection of ideas and thoughts that tell my version of an experience. Not yours.

Remember that adage about coins? You know, how they have two sides? Stories aren’t coins, they’re dies.

In any case, that you were so moved by my words to choose to admonish me for them, is telling. I reached you.

And, yes, this post is about you.

2 thoughts on “It’s Never About You

  1. “Frailty, thy name is woman.”

    I loved Shakespeare as a child, but my absolute favorite bits from his entire corpus were, and will likely remain, Hamlet’s dialogues with Ophelia. How deliciously cruel and patronizing he was! That someone could be so purposefully diabolical towards an individual who professed seemingly nothing but the highest regard and affection for them was absolutely gripping!

    As a pubescent girl, I often found myself questioning just how well Shakespeare truly could have grasped the heart, mind, and motivation of a woman of his time- indeed of any time- given that he (probably) was not of the fairer sex. These thoughts were of course obscured by imaginings of what it meant to be a woman, in and of itself. Still, I had a sense of what was to come. Myself and my friends were afflicted with all manner of pro genitive dreaming- a kind of “pre-traumatic stress disorder”, if you will.

    The only thing I concretely knew was that it sounded like a truly dreadful, worrying affair. I remember very clearly asking my mother one day if childbirth hurt as much as a bee sting did. Yes, she said. It is the worst pain imaginable. But it is a delicious pain. You can’t imagine because you have never experienced anything quite like it yet. This was true, but I did have a powerful sense of things to come. I read Shakespeare, after all! The guy truly seemed to know *most* everything.

    I will stop for a moment and ask your forgiveness for intruding on your writerly habitus to post this comment. I do not, however, feel any real regret as I know you will likely ignore or delete it anyway, if found.

    Let’s consider this person you fleetingly speak of who is, at once, one person (to her) and yet no people (to you)- someone who, in their apparent inanity or lack of qualities, appears to have merged with women of similar character traits to progenate inside of your writer’s mind. Their awkwardly expressed rage, their mewling frustration at your carefully crafted words.. these you have interpreted as stemming largely from vanity.

    As a fellow writer, I implore you to further engage your heart- as well as your intellect- when discerning the motivations of your characters, and indeed also those of “actual” people. It will enrich your work tenfold. One can never promise the same things in real life, of course.

    A vain woman would assume that you wrote exclusively of and for her because you were as fond of her as she is of herself. Now, ask yourself: is that really what is happening here?

    No. I believe this individual you speak of wrote more from a place of deep, abiding hurt than pure vanity. This person must have read your story, rather ill-advisedly, before the wounds inflicted by the flippant and often trite manner with which you treated her actual faith (in those brief real-world interactions, of course) had fully healed. Being by nature drawn to those who are spiritual and/or philosophical in orientation, this person must have found herself gravitating towards you more and more, even as she was simultaneously being repelled.

    A final thought.
    Religion is not just some blind alleyway that the lame and feeble-minded stumble through on their path to self-actualization. It is also a refuge for those who have been deeply wounded or afflicted in ways that you, in your manhood, will probably never experience (or at least, statistically speaking, will not, ever. Unless you change sexual orientation suddenly, or move to Greece).

    Never put down your pen. But never fail to more deeply consider those progenitor identities of your fictional characters- those whom you have judged at a moment’s notice and discarded/disregarded just as quickly. They deserve more careful attention, at least from a fictional point of view.

    1. Qualupilluk,

      Thank you very much for your insights and suggestions.

      Just a quick point: the post did not mention women or a woman. Your comment, however, speaks to the importance of readership in writing.

      Bernard

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