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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Treading on Toes

The trouble with being a writer is that your output is out there for the whole world to see. In other jobs, you’re part of a larger collective set of cogs and clockwork and somewhat detached from the end product. But as a writer (or a journalist or even worse, a blogger) your work is you and you are your work; you pour your soul into cyberspace or printed pages and hope for the best. More often than not, I find, the responses are overwhelmingly positive and it makes the risk all worth it. Many people will write messages of solidarity and congratulations and many more silently resonate. In some cases, strangers will respond negatively and you have to take it on the chin and learn for next time. But sometimes, people who are close to you will change their opinion of you and worse yet, get hurt personally.

I only write when something inspires me enough to affect my emotions so much that I can’t do anything until I’ve articulated them. Those initial few seconds after you hit publish are fantastic because a great weight is off your chest and for a moment, you are totally self assured. But if the piece is serious or emotional (or seriously emotional) then you start to worry and second guess yourself.

“What if _____ reads it? What will they think of me?”
“Will ______ still like me after they’ve read what I’ve written about them? Or will they appreciate the guts it took to share those feelings?”
“Should I have shared something that personal?”

I think you always live in fear that, while 5 people may love your post there will be one whose perception of you will be dramatically altered even if he/she may not tell you. For example, my family inspires me to write. I wonder how they feel when they’re the subjects of a piece of writing that’s out there for the whole world to see. Am I allowed to write about anyone? No one has written about me so I don’t know what that feeling is - the feeling of seeing your name or your character being picked apart and observed by someone else. But there have been times when I’ve written things about them and it has affected small parts of how we interact.

I remember writing an email to my parents (who are followers of this blog anyway) which I thought was really from the heart. To me it seemed like any of the long emails I’d sent them once in a while, detailing my position on things. But this time it ended up causing a lot of pain to them and on hearing about their reaction, immense pain within me. I think one of the hallmarks of our family is our ability to share things – but is it OK if I share those feelings with the entire internet?

It’s the similar situation with my impressions and skits in my stand-up routine; people who I’ve impersonated have stopped the little idiosyncrasies that I picked up on and I feel awful. But at the same time, everyone wants me to impersonate them – I’m caught between a rock and a hard place.

I’d like to believe that the people who really care about me will continue to treat me the same way regardless because they know that the need to express myself is something I can’t fight. It’s a trade off: do you release something into the public domain that could benefit many, at the risk of alienating a few? Maybe this inertia is what holds most people back from expressing themselves artistically.

That’s why I think it takes a tremendous amount of courage to be a creative person who shares his or her work. Getting up on that soapbox isn’t easy and I think audiences/readers take it for granted. Unless you have put yourself out there, you have no idea how hard it is and how easy it is to criticise from the back of the room. When I see a comedian on stage or a blogger really writing from the heart, I immediately empathise because I know how long they must have struggled with themselves: wouldn’t it be more convenient to not express anything?

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