On Privacy and Sharing

In a recent newsletter, Alexandra Franzen included a list of writing prompts, one of which went like this:

“What are the parts [of your life] that nobody sees?”

This question has been on my mind quite often lately. Could I actually find good writing material in the banalities of my everyday life? In the things I don’t feel compelled to photograph for Instagram? In the ugly truths, and the private fears and insecurities I carry with me every day?

I like the idea that my best, most meaningful writing could be right under my nose, trapped within the parts of my life I dismiss as insignificant, unglamorous, messy, the parts I don’t share.

Why don’t I share?

I have never identified as “a sharer.” It does not come naturally to me to share my hopes and dreams, details about my weekend, stories about the people I meet, things that happened to me while I was on vacation, thoughts I had in the shower, etc. It rarely occurs to me to text a friend unless it’s about making plans to meet in person; I don’t leave creative handwritten notes for people in my life because I never think to leave them, though I idealize a relationship comprised of secret messages left behind for a person to find.

Sometimes I am hyperaware of my non-sharing tendencies and take steps to “work on it.” I want to be more of a sharer because the people who I see doing this well always seem interesting, better able to command a room and influence a crowd; and they always seem to have an easier time of meeting new people, connecting with acquaintances and advancing casual friendships to a more intimate, meaningful plane.

But I also prize my identity as a private person. I don’t share freely because there are always the emotions and thoughts I don’t want to admit to having, the parts of my life I don’t find interesting and can’t imagine anyone else would, and the topics I’m not comfortable talking about or on which I struggle to express myself accurately.

I require time to process my thoughts; I don’t like having to speak before I finish parsing through them and before I feel prepared to express my perspective eloquently and with intelligence.

Sometimes, I experience anxiety around the act of conversing. Conversations are scary. You can’t plan them, and sometimes you can’t even know what the topic of conversation will be until you’re already in the conversation.

And, there are the parts of my life that are simply mine, that most people have no claim to, and if I accidentally give something private away in the moment then I have violated my own right not to disclose what I previously chose not to disclose for reasons that I defined for myself, privately, earlier.

Writing grants me the control not to do this.

Perhaps this is why I’ve always been drawn to writing. It can be a way to share more, at the pace that is agreeable to me, with the control I crave.

So maybe if I share more through the craft of writing, someone will see herself reflected back at her in my writing. Maybe she’ll feel so connected to me that she’ll reach out to tell me, and then I’ll feel that connection too. I’ll make more connections with more people that I wouldn’t experience otherwise because my sometimes weird and awkward presence in person tends to deflect such opportunities for connection.

Maybe I’ll have some material to turn into a book of confessional personal essays that someone will call self-indulgent and silly. That would be an OK thing.


My 2017 Values

For the third year in a row, I’m completing the Design Your 20XX workbook, a tool developed by GetBullish creator Jen Dziura for those of us who find extreme joy in advance planning. The Design Your 2017 workbook contains some updates from previous versions which I found to be thoughtful improvements as well as good fun (we should all have To-Don’t lists!), but one of my favorite prompts, which I’ve come to rely on as a measure of my year-to-year progress, remains a cornerstone of the workbook: Define your values.

In a greater effort this year to establish accountability, I decided to share some of the work I did. Below is a list of values I identified for myself in 2017, ranked in (general) order of importance. I find it beneficial to rank my values because it forces me to examine which ones I prioritize over others and why. In the process of ranking I also ended up removing some of the values I had originally listed because A), I found they fit into other, more specific values I already had on the list, or B), they turned out not to be actual values.

The result is an honest hierarchy of values:

[1] Finding my voice and using it.

[2] Getting paid to improve my skill as a writer.

[3] Respect + acclaim as a writer and communications professional.

[4] Healthy habits + self-care.

[5] Nurturing meaningful, supportive relationships with friends and family.

[6] Maintaining cool, collected, highly competent confidence in professional or stressful settings.

[7] Making more money.

[8] Keeping a clean, well-organized, elegant apartment.

[9] Dressing like a sophisticated, bad-ass woman of the world.

[10] Doing my best to make the world a better place through proactive kindness, awareness + action. Also, feminism.

[11] Saving money.

[12] Expanding my network of interesting, like-minded friends + peers.

[13] Meeting more of the people I admire/potential mentors.

[14] Community building for introverts.

[15] Developing a fit, controlled mind.

[16] Accomplishing more in one week than the average person.

[17] Whiskey.

[18] Voracious reading.

[19] Trying new things that take me out of my comfort zone.

[20] Travel.

[21] Good food, coffee + alcohol.

[22] Running longer distances.

[23] Being exceptional, weird an unlike anyone else.

[24] Improving my French language skills.

[25] Making an entrance.










How to Stick to Your Writing Plan Under Any Circumstance

coffee and writing

I am writing from my favorite neighborhood coffee shop. When I arrived there was one open workspace left—the lopsided table next to the window, where it’s too hot to savor a cup of coffee (iced coffee is not my thing). I was hoping to grab a seat at the bar, where it’s cooler and easier to concentrate with an elevated view of others in the shop hard at work coding and penning poetry.

Sitting next to the window, the sun washed out my lap-top screen, so I pulled out my notebook and put pen to paper. I will not be deterred.

I don’t know about you, but I get discouraged when I run into even the slightest hint of adversity, and am much more likely to veer off course, away from my original intention, when conditions aren’t just right.

It’s a bad habit that affects my life in big and small ways. I’m trying to change it.

For me, the first step is reminding myself of what my priorities are. I came to this coffee shop to write a blog post. I did not come to be comfortable, to get the perfect spot, or for the coffee (well, not entirely).

The second step is giving myself permission to take as much time as I need. Sometimes the thing that is making it difficult to do the thing I set out to do is overwhelming. It requires a not-easy-to-come-by solution that I need IMMEDIATELY so I can move on to the Very Important Task at Hand. So, I just can’t even.

But if I have no competing obligations—if there are no external commitments for which I need to wrap up, pick up and go by a certain time, then there’s no reason why I can’t take as long as I need to to find a solution that allows me to move on to the real work.

The third step is getting a little egotistical. Or perhaps more appropriately, asking what type of person I want to be. Do I want to be a person who doesn’t get anything done because life is challenging and full of less than ideal circumstances? Do I want to be the type of person who keeps laziness, fear and lack of conviction as life partners?

Frankly, the idea of that type of person disgusts me.

I want to be seen as someone with ambition, vision and a record of success—someone who has her shit together. In order to achieve that, I can’t forsake productivity because of imperfect conditions. If I let every little thing get in the way of my work, I can’t applaud myself for having great conviction, or much passion for my projects.

In the time since I started writing this, I forgot the uneven surface of my table, and how hot it feels next to the window with the July afternoon sun pouring onto my workspace. I actually ran out of pen ink, so I switched back to writing on my lap-top. But I have a finished blog post.

Motivation Monday: On Writing

How to be a professional writer“Write like a motherfucker.” – Cheryl Strayed

Write all the time, every day, in every possible mood.

Write when you’re so excited to write that you could throw up because you can’t get it all down on paper fast enough.

Write when you have nothing to say.

Most importantly, write when it’s the very last thing you feel like doing—when you’d rather go lick gum off someone’s shoe than write. Write when you’re curled up in a ball and crying, because when you feel that terrible and you’re able to make yourself do it anyway, you’ve already won. It may be the worst writing you’ve ever done, but you’re doing it, and that’s far better than the alternative of not doing it. And as you continue you may realize that you’re not forcing yourself to work anymore. That you are in fact on a roll. That you are on your way to someplace grand and exciting and triumphant, when moments before you were dying.