Writing About The Hard Stuff
One of my challenges while writing this book has been developing a style. I, like everyone else in this special little world, have a special little voice that I want to come across on paper. It's always been easier for me to express myself on paper than verbally, in-person. In-person, I can't time-out and say - hey, let me just write you an email so I don't embarrass myself being totally awkward. I wish I could; this has always been my problem with in-person interaction. But writing is different; it's always felt natural to me, and for that I am thankful. But even though it feels natural, some of it is excruciatingly hard to articulate in just the right way - with a perfect balance of serious concern that can be really heavy, and (hopefully) laugh out loud comedy to take the edge off and keep things light. This is my personality - perpetually in flux between extreme extrovertism and extreme introvertism. How do you even begin to balance that on paper?!
Hard questions interest me because they challenge me. I love to be challenged. I think the most exciting feeling is pointing at something (literally or metaphorically) and saying i did this. Answering, or attempting to answer, hard questions is mostly what I've taken on in this book of mine Adult-Sized. It's ambitious, and terrifying for an unknown writer. There isn't a subject that, off the top of my head, I haven't at least lightly scratched the surface of. I talk about birth, childhood, embarrassments (of all kinds), social media, celebrity culture, living in the suburbs, living in the city, love, sex, travel, astrology, robots, the future, dinosaurs, sexual orientation, religion, parenting, death and grieving. Of course, and I have to re-iterate this, this is a humour section book. I've taken care of the comedy parts - that you can certainly rely on. But one of the challenges of approaching the serious stuff - love, sex, gender, religion, global issues, death, grieving, etc - can be hard to approach in a funny way without coming across either a.) overly light-hearted and totally emotionless, or b.) on the verge of a mental breakdown and in need of a 5 minute long hug.
Some days, I sit down to write, thinking I'm in a pretty good mood. Days later, I re-read what I wrote, and think that maybe I should edit it so it doesn't sound like a really casual suicide letter. That's a good idea - do that. So I do. And it turns out better, and funnier than the previous version. But I really won't know for sure until the next time I look at it with fresh eyes - and so forth, on and on, for over a year. So, writing about hard stuff is hard. The actual, technical process of writing. is. hard.
But aside from the technicalities of writing, the real challenge about writing the hard stuff is making emotional choices. Making the decision to write a pseudo-memoir, personal essay style book, was the decision to share intimate details about my life. It was the decision to share certain events from my young life - some of them traumatizing and deeply painful; the decision to share choices I've made that aren't exactly flattering; and the decision to, for each topic, develop a firm stance and convince you readers why my view makes sense. So, writing about hard stuff is hard because, emotionally, it will always be hard to recall and bring back to life things you'd rather forget, and share yourself to the world to be judged.
The next question is: why write about the hard stuff in the first place? And then: why share it with so many strangers?
Ugh. I constantly ask myself this. I certainly have mixed feeling about writing a book like this at 26 years old. I'm still really young, and I know some people will see this book as twenty-something BS. Some of it probably is. I imagine I'll look back on it in 40 years, much like I review my teenage diary, and want to burn it, and the multiple copies that exist - if books still exist. By then I'll have learned so much more. But, for now, I know the answer to why I want to write about the hard stuff. The hard stuff is the stuff that makes me think, and the stuff that keeps me up at night. When I write, I just figure it out on paper as I go along. That's one reason. Another reason is that in that figuring it out process, I'm becoming a better person. I'm becoming a better me, because I'm figuring out how I feel about everything, and the more figuring it out I do, the more confident I am in my overall character. And secondly, the answer to why I'd voluntarily share this stuff with family, friends, and strangers is because I think that everyone lives in their minds, and believes that their crisis is unique, which means their crisis is that much more unsurmountable because they experience it alone. The reason we read and write personal dialogues is because we have an interest in being understood by someone other than ourselves, and to reaffirm that although our circumstances are unique, our humanity isn't. I think that's really important to remember; it makes writing the hard stuff simply a worthwhile endeavour.