The last few weeks I haven’t wanted to write. I haven’t felt like sharing. I didn’t want you to know what’s been going on in my life. I don’t say this to be mean. I love my readers and receiving emails and comments never get old.
I’ve just been struggling with the idea of Personal Journalism.
Writing gives me purpose. It helps me understand myself and the world around me. Personal writing energises me in a way other activities can’t. But it also makes me exhausted in ways that going to the gym, writing a 5000 word feature piece, and having a night out drinking with friends doesn’t.
Writing a personal piece is hard. Harder than most readers realise. Every time you write a piece you’re taking a risk. You worry someone is going to rip your most intimate thoughts to shreds; in public. For everyone to see. For everyone to comment on.
You hope your ideas are different enough to be interesting and create a positive public debate but mainstream enough that you don’t attract trolls and abuse. I’ve managed to avoid the haters so far.
When you write a personal post you give a piece of yourself away. You package it up and deliver it to someone in a way that allows them to walk in your shoes if only for a few minutes. You want them to feel what you feel. To laugh. To cry.
You hope your experiences change a person’s perception of the world and question their own beliefs and culture. I’ve been lucky, my pieces have moved people. They’ve sent me emails telling me so. Strangers have come up to me at BBQs and shared personal stories of their own. People confided their deepest, most ugly secrets.
At first, I didn’t mind. It is better than being stalked by trolls. I felt like my writing was achieving what it set out to do. I enjoyed hearing real stories from real people. I was happy to chat openly about issues of homelessness, depression and alcoholism.
But the last few months I’ve felt weigh down by these stories. I don’t know what to say to the man who’s been homeless for years and finally got his own apartment. I don’t know how to make his fears of being surrounded by four white walls, alone with his thoughts in the darkness, each night go away.
I don’t know what advice to give to the women who’s be estranged from her father for years because he’s an alcoholic and used to beat her as a child. Should she rekindle their relationship? I have no idea.
This is the other side of Personal Journalism that no one ever told me about. Or prepared me for. People read my personal pieces and feel like they know me. And of course in a way they do. No one forced me to write and share the pieces I have. It was my choice. It’s who I am as a writer. I can’t help be honest and upfront and question the norm – trust me I’ve tried.
But just because I share select pieces of myself, in a format of my choosing, and in my own time doesn’t mean I want to be asked about my relationship with my dad over a snag at a friend’s BBQ. Or that I know how to cure homelessness. I know people ask these questions because they are curious. They care. And they want to help.
It’s just easy for people to forget that I’m a person first then a writer.
I didn’t write this blog post because I want you to stop asking me questions or sharing your stories with me. I wrote it because I don’t think people realise the effort needed to write personal pieces and the effect it can have on a person. I sure didn’t.
Perhaps now when you read a piece of Personal Journalism you’ll appreciate it more and think twice about the person behind the words.
Featured image from Pexels.