Sunday, June 25, 2006

The question at hand...

Does writing about a relationship change it?

The question begs others. For example, who can you write about? Your friends, your family, coworkers, strangers? When they’re living? When they’re dead? Is it ok to write about people if they read what you write – or would you cringe if they found your blog? And where is the line on tone? Does it matter how you feel about them when you write? Do you write when you feel angry and judgmental about someone? Do you only write nice things? Do you try for the illusion of objectivity?

A writer friend and I argued this one a few years back. His stance is that a writer’s job is to be completely truthful – take no prisoners, tell the stories as you see them. And because it’s writing like that affects me most deeply when I read, I could see his point, but something about going at it full-out doesn’t sit well with me – and it isn’t only cowardice, although that’s certainly some of it. There’s a line that can be crossed from honesty into self-righteous judgment. My test is whether I could face a person who was reading what I’d written about them. Not whether they’d cheer. Just whether I could face them and not avert my eyes.

Telling the stories that matter to me, I try to feel my way to the shape they take inside me and then I try to be true to the shape. It’s a middle ground that I’m operating in, in-between surgical precision and fuzzy niceness. And my view is all I can be honest about because I do not know the story from anyone else’s point of view.

In light of the recent combustion in a relationship, though, and the fact that I’ve been writing about in its’ various phases, the question reopens…

Did it change the relationship? Of course it did.

But you don’t have to write a thing down to change it. The minute, the nanosecond you move from directly experiencing a moment, I figure, and start filtering it through your brain full of history, experience and opinion, it changes. It changes if you tell a friend. It changes if you scribble it privately in a diary. It changes when you remember it. Which is what you are doing that nanosecond later.

So why write it (think about it or remember it)?

I conceive of the universe through the personal. Having been well-advised that I stink at polemic, I stay away from it. Relationship reveals meaning to me and writing is how a big part of how I process meaning. I think in stories – from the taxi driver who sings me a self-composed song for his pet Iguana, to my neighbors pushing stolen grocery carts, to remarks my friends make, to my relationship with the Scorpio. There’s another reason I write – but I’ll come back to that.

Fact is, I don’t have much of a relationship with the Iguana loving taxi driver, so it’s not a matter of great consequence if our relationship is affected by my writing about it. But did the Scorpio read my stories? No. Did anyone who personally knew him read them? No – or, out of respect, I likely wouldn’t have written them. But I often read them to him. They made him laugh and he liked seeing how things looked through my eyes. He encouraged my writing, whether the topic was him or anything else. We made it through at least a year without my writing habit blighting the territory. With or without publicity, it has been a relationship full of Hindenburg conditions: hope, idealism and static electricity. And the chemical combination that sent us crashing to the ground was far more immediate than my writing. The story we got wrong was the one I didn’t write.

Reason for writing, number two – the reason I was coming back to…

It’s important to scare yourself. It keeps you awake to yourself and the world.

One writer (Telling Lies for Fun and Profit) said that writers ask for honest opinions but don’t really want them. If an honest opinion is unkind or critical, he says, it’s a lot like showing someone your baby and being honestly informed its head is too big.

If you are a vulnerable person, it’s damn good practice in stating your truth and letting the rain fall where ever it does. It teaches you how to tell who you are from who people think you are…

And it also lets you know that you are, under absolutely no condition, in any circumstance or emotion, a population of one.

23 comments:

Mary said...

I should be getting ready for work so this will be short ...

I know what you are saying, LJ.

But

Speaking personally I am not sure that deliberately setting out to scare oneself for the sake of it is good - well it isn't for me. Being vulnerable and stating mytruth, yes. Playing chicken, no. I sense though that you meant the former rather than the latter.

What blogging about the relationship did for me was raise my own expectations. I started to see it as being larger and better than it was .....

chuck said...

(o)

chuck said...

Can hearing too much "honesty" (another's 'truth') hurt?

Yes it can.

LJ said...

Thanks, Chuck.
Mary...I have Venus in Pisces and Jupiter in Sagittarius. Seeing people as larger and better than they are, for me, is a given. And yes, I meant the former, which is close enough to playing chicken!

Mary said...

LJ - yes I know :-). I have Venus trine Neptune don't forget ...

Linked to this of course is the question of how much of my life do I want to put on the blog, how open do I want to be, are there no-go areas ... and the jury is out on that one for me. I think it varies from day to day, going from too much exposure (for me) perhaps to cold and bloodless blogging because I am not giving anything away.

However much or little you decide to blog about The Scorpio in the future, that' fine. As I said, I am sure you will find plenty of other things as well to blog passionately about!

Yasser Rahman said...

Writing about someone can change the relationship, yes!

Recently , I was writing about this 'friend' of mine..I liked her more than a frined, but I couldnt tell her that..So I wrote, wrote a lot about her, and I knew she was reading it..And She fell for me, though we didnt take it any futher, it changed our realtionship a lot!

Teri said...

This post has been making me think all day about what kind of writer I want to be. In the realm of personal essay and exposed journal writing, I do get turned on more by writers who share what is really going on for them, rather than creating this neat little package of wisdom/cleverness/eternal optimism.

I am guilty of packaging such inauthentic prose. Not always, of course, but frequently. I just haven't been able to tune out that voice in my head saying "That sounds pathetic/that couldn't be any less interesting."

I have to ask myself: what risks do I run by disclosing more of what's really going on in my head?

Katie said...

LJ, I loved this post. For many reasons but first and foremost for the absolute honesty behind the words. I often think when I am writing that everything is in the eye of the beholder-or in this case-the writer. Our own paradigms definetly affect the way we see the world and the people in it around us. But I follow a motto much similar to one in the post: I never say something about someone that I could not say to their face and so I do not write something about them that I would not want them to read. I think that you are always very respectful of everyone that you write about even when you are writing in a tone of wry humor.

As for your number 2 reason for writing, I whole-heartedly agree. Yet I did not know this until after I actually started posting things for other pairs of eyes to see besides my own. I will always feel vulnerable asking for an opinion, because as you put it, I don't want to find out that my baby I think is so beautiful actually has an out-of-proportion head.

I'm glad to see that you may be feeling just a little better. I had faith in you. I know everyone needs some time to heal though, so I am happy that you seem to be doing so. Keep on keeping on LJ. And take care. I like the new picture :)

Jamie

herhimnbryn said...

G'day LJ,
Your writing has once again got me thinking. Like M, I'm not into scaring myself, but I want to be truthful. Being a typical Libran here ( and I'll always say I don't beleive in that stuff!),I find I am using my blog to reflect and meditate. I have 'no go' areas ( which means there will always be personal/relationship things I will not write about..........if I would not share something with an old and valued friend, why would I post it for any one to read?)
I'll stop now, before I get totally befuddled!

LJ said...

Yasser. Good move, apparently!

Teri. Risks. One of the risks is of having that wretched voice inside your head start coming from outside your head, I think.

And I figure, either way, you have to deal with the lousy bastard voice. It's hard to allow yourself to be vulnerable in public, but as I said to a friend today, it's a good way to begin to see both applause and condemnation as equal in irrelevance to the process of claiming your own story.

I struggle with it too. And by the way, I love the entries people make when they're sad or pissed or exhausted or full of opinion. Not because I glory in their exhaustion or anger or misery, but because there is something in all of us that feels reassured that we aren't alone in our
frailty, confusion and imperfections.

In the end...every writer decides how much and when, a day at a time, I guess.

Jamie, I'm just fine. I never feel there is a lot of time left for staying in bad, hurt places, so I try to get my pity-parties over with fast. And honey...although we hate to be told we have a big-headed baby, it's good for us when it's done constructively. The first time you get a good editor, you go into red-ink shock, of course - but when you revise and see the improvement, it's worth the pain.
Personal criticism is mostly the risk out here in the blogsphere,or so perhaps we fear. I mean we're unlikely to get a good editorial critique. And we're all pretty brave each time we post. I'll bet you hold your breath every time you hit "publish"...and you get a Bravo from me each time, too - because you're a deeply thoughtful person and it's evident you care very much about what you write.

G'day H!
Meditation and reflection. Some of us meditate loudly and some quietly. I'm grinning. I love your meditations. I'm more of a...blurter. I write to figure out what I think. Monks, monkey-minds, mothers, madmen, musicians...and then there's Yidchick who is in a category all her own ...I love the variety of voices.

Thanks for the thoughtful feedback everyone.

Koru's Daughter said...

I love your writing... Ummmm... yet, so much thinking... now my brain hurts... Ouch.

Handy Girl said...

many scorpios need a humbling experience now and then....when i am writing, i think, what would happen if my mother read this? i write for me and i write for others, but mostly for me. selfish? perhaps, but it's cheaper than therapy, and if it makes me be a better person who is more connected to the truth, then the world will have to digest my words. they go good with beer.

LJ said...

Cheaper than therapy and goes good with beer? Who could ask for more?

LJ said...

And by the way, Handy Girl, what WOULD your mother think?

Handy Girl said...

my mother would be so proud that i know how to use a computer, she'd tell all her friends (in an authentically thick scottish accent), "oche aye, she's got her own page, i think they call it a blog, and she writes it all herself..." at least for now, anyway....it could all change without warning, with a word, a nod, a wink or too much beer.
thanks for the link on your site. it is a high honour indeed!

Anonymous said...

The second we give a thing a name, we kill it. The material becomes conceptual, and our old friend logocentrism comes in and starts knocking the shit out of the place.

Then you've got an idea of something, and the true nature, when in conflict with this idea, get paved over. Reality as inconvenience. Before long, the whole thing crumbles under the weight of all that concept. "Hey, don't act like you, act like my image of you!"

This is how I temporarily screwed up the lives of about half a dozen women, taking myself out with them every time.

Woof,
-marko

LJ said...

Also called "projection"...
And yes, reality is a HUGE inconvenience!
Mark? Half a dozen was it? Only half a dozen?
I'm grinning.

Mary said...

And I agree with Marko!! That's what happened to me

LJ said...

I agree. Sheesh, you guys. I KNOW that.
Now! Whether you write it or not, did you name it? Uh-huh. Yes you did. You named.
For me, might as well write the name. At least I get to be creative with the illusion that's going to blow up in my face. Be cheered!

phlegmfatale said...

Perception is reality.

AntiElvis said...

Writing about experiences is kind of like monitoring computer systems - you do impact on the "system" by the simple task of looking at and, in doing so, you use some resources.

I think.

Sort of.

LJ said...

My goodness, anti-e, you ARE reading back today! Nicely put. And in the way that you are unlikely to stop monitoring systems, so am I...
just the difference between organic and non-organic, I guess. And come to think of it, a computer system can blow a pretty large raspberry too.

AntiElvis said...

And they do, frequently.

Just remember - rebooting is your friend. Although rebooting a person is somewhat more complicated... ;)