I used to pour my guts out. Seems the only way I ever understood my feelings were to read them. The collection within these pages used to know me better than my closest friend. The writing used to be honest, uncensored, and unapologetic. I never considered what happened beyond the typing- there was a naive and innocent freedom in approaching a blank page without an agenda or audience. It was like I was screaming at the top of my lungs off of a cliff. It felt good to yell, to have my words bounce around the stone walls and echo back so I could hear them. No one else was around to hear what was going on, so it didn’t seem that crazy.
The moment I realized that my words have consequences, it spoiled it. I lost my innocence. I became shy or sometimes ashamed. I felt judgement. Even if I wasn’t being perceived improperly, the notion of someone else formulating opinions about me inherently made silence seem more appealing. Suddenly I started leaving out bits and pieces of my thoughts and feelings, lying to myself by omission, so much so that I eventually removed myself from the entire equation. I still wrote, but just without the personal attachment.
I guess that’s called insecurity. I’ve never considered myself insecure because I wasn’t as much concerned with what you thought but rather how I made you feel.
I started to worry about belittling people’s thoughts or efforts, I worried about exploiting their insecurities, rooted convictions and beliefs. While I am not an optimist, the media we consume ourselves with is unquestionably dramatic and negative- I didn't want to contribute to that. I preferred civility and politeness, even if that meant silence, to further polluting our zeitgeist. I’ve never needed the validation of my opinions, I don’t write so that I can find people who agree with me- I share my thoughts with you to make you feel. Enlightenment through empathy. If I’m knowingly going hurt someone’s feelings with my words, there better be a damn good reason. Viewership is not one of them.
Woah woah- why would my words have any affect on someone else? Who the hell am I? I carry no authority. My narcissism can’t be so out of control that I honestly believe that something I ramble about could carry significant impact on someone else. That too is naive. When I tell someone that I love them, I believe that affects them. I’ve witnessed it. When I praise them, I feel their glow. It’s only logical to assume that when the opposite occurs, it has an impact as well.
Well organized words can change the world and our place in it. Anyone that has the ability to form a sentence can make someone else cry or laugh, they can inspire movements and decimate cultures. Binding words to emotions is a significant responsibility and for a moment in my life that was something I was unwilling to accept. I was unable to own the liability.
Sheltering my thoughts allowed me to hide behind the mystery. If I didn’t stir an opinion or feeling within you, I never had to explain myself. I never had to become vulnerable or subject either of us to a meaningful discussion. I was never wrong and neither were you.
I’m not sure if I became a byproduct of our oversensitive politically correct culture, one where we’re unable to teach our children how to win or lose a little league game and one where a single 140 character tweet can ruin a career or reputation that took a lifetime to build; or if I was just a coward. I worried about my personal future- what if I wanted to run for political office one day? The opposing campaign manager would dig something up that I wrote when I was 22 and hold it against me 30 years later. A potential employer poking around the internet decided to pass on me because they discovered I had an opinion.
The whole process became so disingenuous. Allowing the fear of an unknown reaction or the approval of a future that may never exist to control the actions of the present is an oppressive way to live and ultimately buries the truth, something I hold to be more sacred than politeness. Without uncovering substance and meaning, no progress whether it simply be personal can ever be achieved. My silence wasn’t out of honesty, but rather a gamut of hypothetical emotions, responsibilities and consequences.
I can accept criticism and cross examination but I’m no longer comfortable with conforming to an agenda. If I can’t be honest with myself and approach a blank page as if it were a mirror, to liberate myself from self censored oppression, I can never expect to earn your respect as a writer. I say again- your respect. Not approval.
Honesty, whether discussing current events or concocting a fictional story is essential to the intellect and emotional condition of the reader. You aren’t always going to like me for it; my words will occasionally hurt your feelings or make you uncomfortable. However, honest words also have the ability to make you feel love and inspiration. Meaning carries purpose in which we achieve results. Therefor, meaningless words and endeavors are just that.
As I once again find my voice, at the risk of tossing away a blissfully ignorant and polite future, I encourage you to do the same. The more we shed the vulnerability of allowing ourselves to be heard, the more opportunities we create for growth and understanding. We just need to remind ourselves to listen once in a while as well.
If you intend to writeStephen King
as truthfully as you can,
your days as a member of
polite society are numbered.