In our daily lives we are asked to share, update, and post. I translate those into “divulge, disclose, and publish.” Although we have the privilege of privacy, that is, no one is forced to use social media platforms, we oftentimes (and with abandon) divulge and disclose to anyone willing to be our audience and perhaps out of fear of missing out on (virtual) life.
Sometimes what we say (post) gets misinterpreted and we are questioned and/or confronted by our audience. Sometimes what we say (post) gets misinterpreted and discussed by an audience and in our absence. With every disclosure, we risk losing control of the dialogue because the disclosure itself surrenders the idea to the public arena.
So I think it’s a good idea as we navigate through our lives to remember this:
“We can spend our lives letting the world tell us who we are. Sane or insane. Saints or sex addicts. Heroes or victims. Letting history tell us how good or bad we are. Letting our past decide our future. Or we can decide for ourselves. And maybe it’s our job to invent something better.” Chuck Palahniuk from his novel Choke
I share a lot of myself through my writing. Here, at this blog, I share thoughts, ideas, observations, and personal experiences. It’s all very existential. My objective is to share those experiences of mine which I presume others have had themselves. There have been countless times where I’ve thought, “I’m going to write an essay about _______ ,” but opt not to for fear that my readers will think, “I can’t really identify with that.”
Herein enters the blessing of creativity:
In my novels, I describe the experience of others, i.e., my created characters. Many of their experiences mirror my own life. Some mirror and/or mimic the life and experiences of others. My mimicry could be a true retelling (as “true” as someone could be in the reflective telling of his/her own experience.) Alternatively, my mimicry could be similar to the original but with new details, different names, and swapped our scenery. There will be readers who attribute every word of my creative writing to my “private” life, though I hope there will be others who remind themselves they are reading fiction.
(Side note: Let me share an example of my use of mimicry. From November 2014 to February 2015, I spent fifty-seven days writing a novel about the discovery of infant skeletons found in shallow graves of a dirt-floor basement. The basis for this novel came from a newspaper report from September 2014.)
What happens to the “performer” (poster on social media/writer of creative works) when she does something entirely anonymous? Does the absence of an identifiable audience change the motivations of this performer? That is, can the product of the performer be existentially different when the performer cannot know who her audience will be?
Over the last few months, I have been working on a project which is completely anonymous. In so doing, I stripped away my name, my face, and other identifiable markers. No one knows the “who” behind this project. Instead, any interest an audience gives the project is independently authentic, like using a pen name. (Remember when JK Rowling wrote a novel and used a pen name? She wanted to see whether her writing could stand on its own and not be read simply due to her name recognition.) Similarly, though not as monumental, in its secrecy, my project is required to stand on own merits. This anonymous project, which is 100% mine and 100% not able to be associated with me, balances the honesty and creativity of everything else I put out in public which is meant to contribute to the conversations of “life and how to live it.”
In our ever-enmeshed and overly-nosy culture having this outlet allows me, as suggested by Mr. Palahniuk, “invent something better” of myself with my unknown audience. There is intrinsic and deep value to getting no “credit,” nor any “blame,” for sharing myself and my personal experiences.