On publishing personal essays

Yesterday was a bit of a whirlwind for me. Within a :30 period a pitch of mine was accepted and an essay I wrote was up on HelloGiggles. Validation, the kind that only comes from getting paid for your writing, was burning up all of my pre-trip anxiety. I wrote something and people who are in charge of paying writers for their words love it enough to pay me, too.

When s friend commented on my Facebook post about it talking about how negative people were being in the comments section, I was confused; why was it bad that I count on my friends for things more than my husband who works 48 – 60 hours a week? Why couldn’t they get my sarcasm about what to do with my hair being life or death? Oh, right. Because everything is open to interpretation and there will always be bad reviews. Even on HelloGiggles, a place I consider a safe space, has commenters that will throw hate around. No big deal.

Except at at the time it was. I was a little hurt that my voice didn’t come through to these readers the way I hoped it would. Re-reading the essay only strengthened my original feeling: My voice is good. What I wrote was honest and was laced with the kind of humor that makes me, me.

I wasn’t ready to hear that I had bad commenters. I wasn’t ready to take a peek and see what people were saying about me and what I wrote. This isn’t fiction, so bad feedback is personal: an attack on me, my values, my thoughts. Or is it?

It totally is. But I can’t look at it that way.

Taking a step back, and ignoring the comment section on the piece, is the only way I’ll be able to handle writing essays. Not everyone is going to like my work. Not everyone is going to be a fan of my thoughts, feelings, or personal philosophy. I’m an independent person separate from my husband and there’s nothing wrong with that — just like there’s nothing wrong with people who view their significant others as their… What do the kids call it these days? Bae?

So I’ll avoid the comment section and I’ll keep writing how I feel. Maybe I’ll make things clearer next time but I know there will always be people who are unhappy, who are uncomfortable, with the viewpoint I share. And really, isn’t that a sign that I’m doing my job right?

A writer’s job isn’t to make the reader comfortable. A writer’s job is to make the reader think, to pull them out of their comfort zone and into a place of heightened understanding. Reading should be creating room for empathy and understanding of view points beyond your own limited one. Reading should make you uncomfortable. Writing should make you uncomfortable. Staying in a place that’s comfortable won’t help anyone. In fact, it’ll perpetuate the idea that we should only try to understand a situation from our own personal experiences. There’s no room for a higher understanding. No room for debate or intelligent conversations.

So im going to keep doing my thing. I’ll keep writing essays about my weird relationship. Next time, I’ll just avoid the comment section.

 

 

 

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