The Inescapable Nature of Self-Expression

You write about yourself, whether you want to or not. And that’s enlightening. But it’s also inconvenient.

Of course in the context of blogging that’s not really a surprise. But it was when I recently finished a fictional 500 word exercise that I was blown away by this seemingly benign discovery.

We all know that when we write, glimmers of ourselves appear in our characters. Maybe it’s a physical feature, a habit, a passion of theirs, a mannerism, a flaw. But in general we mostly believe that these characters are unique and when we write we create by pulling from many places, not just from within. I don’t think that’s as true as we like to think.

Here’s the enlightening part:

My 500 word exercise was on loneliness. I didn’t think I particularly identified with the character, her world, or her predicament. But reading the finished product triggered a deep introspective response. A veil had been lifted.

I was lonely.

The number of parallels I instantly drew to my own circumstances was shocking. I had subconsciously put so many of my own feelings into the story; feelings I didn’t even know I had been feeling. It was as though a very quiet, forgotten piece of myself was trying to express itself to me.

I hadn’t realized I was lonely, much like the pilot in the story doesn’t fully appreciate how sad and isolated her situation is. And yet I was able to encapsulate an expression of loneliness so effortlessly through a part of me I had suppressed. I was reminded of common introspective tools, such as writing letters to yourself or keeping a diary, in which you try to express your feelings, and which are often very revealing. But this blew me away. Instead of trying to write about what was bothering me, to help sort it out or make sense of it, my mind had used my creative outlet to let me know what I wasn’t acknowledging. And I imagine the same is true of pretty much any creative outlet.

When I read what I write, now, I don’t want to just read to edit. I don’t want to just look for bad grammar, spelling, and tense. I want to look for messages I’ve secretly written to myself, messages that offer a little more insight into the “me” I’ve been ignoring.

Which brings me to the slightly inconvenient part:

Sometimes we’re sharing a part of ourselves with the outside world we weren’t even aware existed. And sometimes sharing ourselves that openly can be uncomfortable. But I say we should embrace that discomfort, that vulnerability. That inconvenience. Because while it can be unsettling to be open and visible, it’s also how we endear ourselves to others, and where true relationships transcend acquaintance.

I write so that my inner voice can speak. But from now on I’m also going to listen to it.

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