Writing is hard and no one cares if you do it – so YOU have to. – Anne Lamott
My first online presence of any substance was on Livejournal. I poured out unfinished thoughts, portions of growth processes, essays I’d spent hours on, carefully crafted works… and they started conversations. I had a small group of people who also filled pages of their own journals. And we grappled together. It was a group endeavor. We shared content between us, and grew in our respective paths. It was the kind of sustained conversation that allows time for reflection and enrichment.
Those were powerful friendships. One of those online friends eventually became my life partner.
With the dawning of the Twitter era and the domination of Facebook, long-form writing community like that just seemed to dry up. It was like everyone moved out of the neighborhood. I’m on Twitter now, and on Reddit. Being kinky, I’m on the “Facebook” of that scene, Fetlife. And I have some conversation there. And I get something out of using them. But it’s not the same. It’s not just faster-paced and shorter. It’s also lacking the personalization and hospitality that comes from being repeatedly and specifically invited into the truly intimate pages of someone’s life. This new kind of contact has built connections for me, but they’re built more around individual points of agreement or insight, and less around the full contact sports of hugging, grappling and deep listening. It’s the difference between saying hello while you pass someone in a store, and having a long, luxurious cup of hot beverage with them in one of your homes.
So, for a while now, I’ve been keeping a part of myself to myself. Now, I’m certainly not missing from social media. Besides the three I mentioned, I’ve also got a cooking blog and this personal blog, I’m on Fitocracy (the “Facebook” of exercise), I have a mostly dormant sex blog with my honey and there’s probably other things I’m forgetting. But there’s consistently been a part of myself I hold back, even from my own private journals. When I post something to Reddit, for example, it often feels more influenced by the eddies and floes of pop chit-chat rather than my own deeper workings. Without that salon of friends where we could do some real digging together, I lost track of any reason why I’d want to write. I didn’t usually have a reason to spend the time to sort through my thoughts in words. And I didn’t have a reason to post them in “public” when I wasn’t likely to get much feedback. In fact, I actively disliked posting when I wasn’t getting feedback; it felt too much like adding to the noise that we have to ignore for our own sanity, rather than improving on the silence.
But, something’s been stirring a while. Something’s been craving an outlet. I haven’t known what or how, but I’ve felt it.
Today I saw a tweet from Anne Lamott, with the sentiment I quoted above. It’s the third or fourth time I’ve seen her tweet it. And it’s found a string inside of me that strums at the thought. Lamott talks about writing out of a need to write… not out of a desire or even a need to be published, but from experiencing the work of writing itself as a survival mechanism. I think in mourning for a certain kind of community – a certain kind of opportunity – that’s been lost to me, I’ve forgotten how rich the writing itself was. I forgot how important the work of regular writing is to me. I forgot how important it is that I say certain things, regardless of how many hear it.
What we practice is who we become; the spiritual practice of writing is a lifeline for certain parts of me that don’t exist any other way. It also inspires another spiritual practice for me: holding on to hope that those with ears to hear will eventually hear, and as long as there is any possibility that my truth can be of value to someone, it’s worth scribbling on a wall where they might read it.