This is going to sound more self-deprecating than I intend, but lately I’ve been struggling to write anything personal. I start a piece and then I wonder, What’s the point? Who does this help? What good does this do the world?
Objectively, I think “There is none,” “no one,” and “it doesn’t” are all perfectly valid answers to those questions. Writing doesn’t have to “accomplish” anything to be of value. It’s art, a form of expression. Existing is enough.
So what’s my problem? I think mostly it’s a fear of opening up. Of exposing certain parts of myself to be read and judged. And not just myself, but parts of my family or friends that affect me, but that aren’t strictly “mine” to write about.
Objectively, I don’t think that’s fair pressure for any writer to put on him/herself. Just like we should all dance like no one’s watching, sing like no one’s listening, and love like we’ve never been hurt, we should also write like no one’s reading.
But of course, it’s easy to be objective in theory, much more difficult in practice.
So what inspires me, what makes me feel empowered and brave, is reading things like this: “My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant.” In six quick pages, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas outs himself (in multiple ways). I was amazed by his life story, his work ethic, and his writing.
”Maintaining a deception for so long distorts your sense of self. You start wondering who you’ve become, and why.”
I’m not deceiving anyone, but I am in a sort of mental/emotional hiding. Fiction is my greatest passion, but I would like to write personal essays sometimes too. Now whenever I hesitate, I will try to remind myself of Vargas’s piece, of his courage, of his heart.