I’m a writer and a blogger, and as such, I give away a lot of myself online.
I’ve talked about getting bed bugs. About getting Brazilian waxes and urinary tract infections. I’ve talked about going to Japanese Love Hotels with my boyfriend, and I’ve talked about Japanese men taking photos of my breasts. I once wrote about my mother’s pubic hair, and I’m not entirely sure that she’s ever gotten over the shock.
Boundaries are something you come up against everyday, as a writer whose most interesting subject is themselves. I can’t tell you what it’s like to swim the channel, or run a marathon. I can’t talk you through splitting an atom or even baking a halfway decent chocolate cake. I am the only thing I can reliably write about. As a sheltered 27 year old, my life experiences have been limited but they’re still mine, owned by no one else, able to be recited like the periodic table by no one else.
But how much do you give away?
The best bloggers, I think, strip themselves bare, and spare nothing. They give you the grit and the gore along with the good – remove themselves from themselves to such a degree that they’re studying their own lives, dispassionately but so, so painfully intimately, that whether you like them or hate them, you are them, for as long as you read their words. They talk about weight-loss. Loss. Being lost. If you met them in the street you’d have to blush, and look away, because you’ve seen them naked. Worse than naked.
I admire those writers, and I read their words avidly, and yet I know I couldn’t be them. I can write about funny things that have happened to me. Buying crotchless panties from a vending machine; or nearly voiding my bowels at a particularly brutal boot camp. I can write about being a nomad, and I can write about how I feel, but only on the surface. You might know I’m lonely, but you won’t know how lonely. You might know I’m bored or confused or frightened – if you’re desperate you can’t always altogether hide the desperation – but all you’ll get are whiffs.
I’m a selfish writer, and I keep the nastiest and nicest bits of myself to myself. Anecdotes and pithy tidbits are fine, but the flaying of skin from flesh that some writers do, inserting the pen between what people see and the truth, and prising those bits out, I’ll never do. I won’t do it because I’m selfish and I won’t do it because I’m afraid. Because once it’s out there – that picture of your face without make up, or that picture of your body without clothes, or that portrait of someone with no fucking idea what they’re doing – you can’t take it back.
So I won’t give it away.
It limits me, as a writer. The intimacy that the likes of Lena Dunham and Caitlin Moran achieve with their readers is possible only because they’ve recognised their boundaries and ripped them down. Writing is revelation, and I hide nearly everything. So what do you do, then, once you’ve told all your funny stories and cute tales, and the only bits left are those that you’re not prepared to share? I don’t know.
Maybe you stop.
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