Do I have the heart to be a writer?

Once upon a time, I wrote a blog about being a bitch.

For a short time, this blog was a platform for me to be brave, outspoken, and sometimes, blunt.

People often misinterpreted my curt style as angry judgment.

I can see how.

But in my heart, I was an activist.

I blogged because I cared. Pure and simple.

And I wanted other people to care like I did.

I felt empowered when I wrote. And when people agreed with my outrage, I knew my mission was an honorable one.

Until someone disagreed.

Until someone called me a whiner. A complainer. Took me down personally.

Then, I began to question myself.

I loved the chorus of agreement, but had a hard time stomaching the malcontents.

It will come as little surprise to any experienced blogger that my most popular post — one in which I go after Dr. Oz (stupid, stupid, never go after an Oprah protege) — was also the one that attracted the most negative attention, the most personal attacks.

It was the day after that post hit, I first questioned my fortitude.

fortitude

I did not question the strength of my writing. I questioned whether I was strong enough to be read.

To live as a writer who people read. And with whom people engaged…and criticized.

Did I have the stomach for success?

I wasn’t so sure.

I’m still not.

I write because I have to.  I will always write. It’s a necessity. I know that now after too long of not knowing.

But I don’t know if I can face the readers who think my writing is not a necessity. Not a gift. Not a meaningful addition to the world.

And there will be, of course, readers like that.

As there will be readers who will love almost everything I write.

As there will be readers who fall in between. Those who adore me when my words paint a lovely picture, but abandon me when they’re too controversial, too honest, too personal, too raw.

It’s the raw in me that often becomes my best writing. And it’s the raw in me –I know — that moves others, too. Moves them in multiple, unpredictable directions.

It’s this unpredictable, electric dance that made me fall in love with writing. And it’s this dance that terrifies me.

Why is it that nature bequeaths the sensitive artist with the compulsive desire to create and share?

And how are we to reconcile this?

How may we accept the words of our critics as open-minded as we expect them to receive ours?

hemingway

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6 thoughts on “Do I have the heart to be a writer?

  1. Yes. I think you have the heart. I may well not agree with everything you say. That would be almost impossible, but I think it very unlikely that you would be mean-spirited, prejudiced or deliberately ignorant so I would always read your opinions with respect. One of the things that shines through your blog is your essential good nature, and we need as much of that as possible

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  2. It’s a complicated question you ask. I am assuming most writers learn the art of detachment and just write (raw) because they have to. My blogging partner and I just went through an interesting experience. We recently started writing for the Huffington Post and have discovered that the world of blogging has sheltered us a bit from the other writing world out there. Generally, when commenting on a blog, I feel other bloggers in particular take care to see where the writer came from, what it must have cost to put something out there and tread a bit more carefully (not often but often enough). “Out there”, readers just read and spew out the first thing that comes to mind, without much care for the consequences. We published a piece on women who choose not to have children, after a long research with friends and friends of friends who helped us by sharing their experiences. The article led to three pages of comments, not all of them kind. I think it’s important to separate criticism into the one that tears apart your argument with logic and makes you see any mistakes or arguments you overlooked (useful) and the personal venom from someone who just doesn’t share your point of view. In the end, we chose not to engage in a defense game but the experience crystallized what it means to write for us.

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    • Thanks for your really thoughtful response. I’ve been thinking about this more since I posted it and I would agree about losing sight of the rest of the writing world when our heads and hearts are so much in blogging/social media. I used to write for a newspaper and the experience was very different for me. I wasn’t exposed as much to people’s experience of reading my articles. There was little to no engagement. Plus it was less personal. I was usually reporting on an event or interviewing a person for a feature. Readers would react to the subject more than my coverage or analysis of it. Less personal. I think if/when I leave the blogging/memoir arena to focus on fiction/poetry more, I might be less sensitive.

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  3. I totally relate to this. I think fear of disapproval (more from family and friend than internet strangers) keeps my writing from hitting a depth that would make it more compelling.

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