I’m not much of a talker but I have things to say. I find that writing is a way for me to “talk.” Despite my inconsistency, I write because I find it therapeutic. Because, like everyone else, I react to things and I have opinions, too. I have a roster of public intellectuals and writers whom I admire, and aspire to be like.
My problem is that I don’t take myself seriously. I lack the self confidence and conviction in many of the thoughts I have. I’m prone to questioning myself, and undermining and stifling my own creativity. I aspire to great things but easily hide from the challenges of accomplishing them. I have become content in the world of “okay.” It’s a self-perpetuating cycle of doubt, frustration, and all things negative. A cycle that I aim to break out of.
I’m also prone to self-censoring, due in part, by the single question that appears to plague most, if not all, writers: So what?
Who gives a shit about what I’m writing? I have no idea, but when I do publish posts, there are some people who like what I write. Groundbreaking and unique? Maybe not, but there’s something in every one of our writings that allows us to connect with others. It’s the feeling of knowing that you’re not alone in what you’re thinking or experiencing. There is a sense of community in writing, even among amateurs, and that is another reason why I write. Hell, look at Medium.
My stuff may not go haywire viral. I’m not the best of writers but what little engagement I do get shows that I did reach someone. The quotidian experiences may seem banal and inane, but in some ways it is those everyday things that allow us to connect in particular ways.
There are also the not-so-quotidian moments that need exploration. Therapeutic on the one hand, the act of transcribing my thoughts into text also invites others to share in a space and participate, even when that participation isn’t positive.
I wrote earlier about how a recent visit with an aunt challenged my childhood memory of her. The aunt, who this post references, found the piece insightful as did an uncle who came across the post on Facebook. The post received a few likes from friends and other writers I don’t know. This was all great but it was the reaction of my parents I wasn’t ready for.
(Unfortunately) I feel obligated to preface what’s to come by telling you that this is not a condemnation of my parents’… parenting (and neither was that other post). My parents are not bad people and they were not terrible parents. It is because of who they are, and their insistence that my brother and I go to college and get a job, that I am who I am today. And it is because of this that I strive to be a better person than I am today.
Both my father and mother sent me separate emails within 24 hours of the post being published. They found the post hurtful and critical of their parenting. It was insulting to them that I should write such a revealing piece on a public platform. Their characterizations of family were not accurately depicted. In the future, I should be more considerate about the things I write.
I did not get angry at their reaction, nor was I hurt by their stern emails. Rather, I was surprised. Perhaps even a little confused.
Of all the things that I have written up until now, I finally got a reaction. And for a post that wasn’t even about them. Never have I ever written anything without consideration. Sure, some of my older writing is a bit brash and weird upon reflection but I take great care in the words I use and how I use them. That’s what writers do. But the thing about being a writer, as with many other creative things, is that not everyone will agree with you. People will interpret your writing in their own way, even when you think their interpretation seems illogical. My parents are a recent example of that. There is nothing wrong with disagreement but this problem led me to mull over the problem of self-censorship.
Do I just stop writing? What should I write about? Where should my inspiration come from if not my personal experiences, especially with family? etc. etc.
I spent much of the last two years in therapy exploring some personal quirks of mine. This recent reaction from my parents reveals a lot about why I am currently struggling with a lot of those quirks. The more I discover the extent to which my parents’ own personalities and traits influenced my growth, the more frustrated I find myself about everything.
For a moment, I considered never dipping into the inspirational pot of “family” for future pieces. But that’s silly. Creativity comes from a variety of wells, and my family is one of them. To shut that well off would spell disaster in attempts at self-reflection and writing about stuff in meaningful ways.
I also realized that this whole thing is really not a big deal. The one thing I learned in J-school is to not libel people. Even in my non-journalistic writing, I avoid misrepresenting people. I do try to write honestly, and not everyone will agree with what I write. That is a fact. As a writer though, one of my goals is to try to open channels for discussion. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
Not everyone is perfect, and I think as we grow older, we increasingly try to not be our parents. We aspire to do better because they aspire that we do better.
Much to my parents’ chagrin, I won’t be shutting off the “family” well. The thing about creativity and inspiration is that you can’t force it to come from certain places. It comes from where ever it comes. As a creative, we have to acknowledge the source and run with it.
Photo: Andy Mai/stocksnap.io
Originally published June 2016. Some modifications made in this version.