Sometimes I feel like I give so much of myself away so easily – too easily – through this space.
Does anyone even care? Why do I keep writing and sharing, what does this change?
Sometimes I think, I give so much of myself away to strangers I’ll never meet, almost like random passerby who’ll sift through my words and thoughts, perhaps pause for a second, but quickly move on to their next reading material.
How much does this matter – no, how much does this change?
Sometimes I reread my old write-ups and noticed how differently I write now; other times I wonder to myself, how could you have written about that here? Because I think vulnerability scares even the person who writes out her thoughts.
Once, I confessed to a close friend, “When I worry about the possibility of a relationship, what I worry is that I am an open book. I’m a lot less guarded now, compared to when I was younger. And blogphilic – it’s a huge part of who I am. I’ve gotten this before from some friends – “I’m scared you’ll write about me,” they said – and I’d give a nonchalant response. Because I can’t say I won’t write about you.” Pause. “But I always write about things from my perspectives, flawed and limited that they are. I might not write about you now, but there’s no telling when I will, you know?”
“Sometimes I worry. If I am with someone, will he be okay with that? That I write stories about my life, and the people who walk in and out of it. These narratives, they’re constantly in my head. It’s who I am.” Another pause. “But will he be okay with that? What if he’s the sort who wants no one to write about him, not in such a personal way? What if my being an open book is a cause for contention? I’m not sure how I’d go about that, if this becomes an issue. Blogphilic is who I am.”
I’ve come across plenty conversations between writer-bloggers and aspiring writer-bloggers – the former usually having an established readership and fanbase, so to speak, while the latter has dreams to arrive where the former has. “How do you do it?” is a common question. The following is an equally common answer, “Write for yourself. Before anyone else, write for yourself. Write because you want to express whatever it is you want to convey. Write for you, others will come.”
“But what if others don’t? I’ve written for X years, and still-“
“It’s a community here. Connect with other writers; everyone’s welcome.”
The truth is, when I read these conversations – I understand where they are coming from and I know they’re not wrong about it, but there’s always this nagging, cynical voice at the back of my mind, “Really, that only answer you can give?”
There’s no denying that I used to be one of those aspiring young thing, and equally true that I used to obsess over readership and what-have-yous. But honest, I can’t care less anymore now, about this. I think I write out of habit, more than anything else. It feels second-nature to drop by here and type away, whenever something perplexes me. I am always comforted knowing that someone is reading me – just one person, that’s all it takes – but I am neither threatened nor discouraged if my readership count is, in reality, zero. Because I think the real question isn’t “Who do you write for?” which is followed by the equally typical answer, “I write for no one but myself” …pfft. Save that answer for someone else.
The real question is, “Why do you write where you do – for what?”
And its taken me a long time, my goodness it has taken me nearly a decade if not more, to finally understand that I write, specifically here, to find the calm that lies amid the storms – emotional, literal, and figurative – in my life. I write not just for myself – that would now be a lie; I’d be writing in a diary if this was the case. The real, revised answer is that I write for myself first and foremost, before anyone else. I write not to be understood and I can’t be bothered about being judged. I write to declutter, disintegrate thoughts and feelings that I am guilty of over-complicating, and occasionally, as keepsake. Memories of times past and versions of myself and loved ones that will eventually be irretrievable. I write for my sanity’s sake – that’s true, but it’s also true that I write to live on. I write not just to remember, but to move forward. Progress.
So here’s my advice to young writer-bloggers, unqualified as I am to be doling out advice:
It’s okay to want readership – why the hell would you start a blog if this wasn’t on your mind, even if it’s only 0.01%? – but understand your purpose for writing and where you choose to do so. You wouldn’t be compelled to write if you weren’t writing for yourself, so that answer is moot. I’m asking you straight-up, no sugar-coating, “What is your writing purpose?”
Write, while you figure it out. Write, while you flesh out that answer. Write, with the knowledge that the answer will morph, evolve – oftentimes take wholly different forms than when you first birthed it to life. Write, with the patience of the wise; anything worth having is worth working towards, no matter how long that would take. Write, with the virtue of a saint; keep your intentions clear, pure, and principled. Write, with kindness in your heart – towards yourself and others.
Write, keep writing …and your true purpose will make its presence felt with unbending clarity.