After posting the short essay I wrote for my Grandmother, I went ahead and shared it on Facebook. It got a fantastic response from my family, as well as from people I’d never met who had been touched by my Grandmother in some way. It was really neat to get such a response to my writing. But it also produced a near anxiety attack for me because I had alerted the world of Facebook – namely, my family, friends, and acquaintances who have computers – to my blog.
Despite the fact that the sole purpose, seemingly, of a blog is to share your writing, before now I had never been quick to let people know that I do, in fact, blog. Several people said to me, “I didn’t know you had a blog!” And my response, at least in my head, was: you weren’t supposed to know that I had a blog. It’s not because I don’t like these people, or that I don’t want them to see my writing; it’s because one of my biggest fears, and biggest causes of writer’s block, is self-censorship.
Writing requires a certain degree of freedom. Sure, you should always keep your intended audience in mind when writing – writing is, after all, meant to have an audience, unless it’s a diary. But my intended audience never includes my family – or, to be precise, my mother. I love my mom, and I want her to be proud of me, as everyone does. But to worry about what your Mom will think when she reads your work is the surest way to censor yourself.
But this is a quirk of mine that needs to be nipped in the bud. I want the people in my life to read my work. If you’re reading this, Mom, it really has nothing to do with you personally. I think it’s more the idea of Mom; the worry that people will read into your work a certain amount of autobiography, and the worry that they will judge you.
I honestly don’t know how memoirists do it. David Sedaris, for instance, mines his life unscrupulously for writing material. All of his family members appear in his work, at their best and at their worst. And we all carry around a certain amount of family baggage, but I’m not sure I’m ready to unpack that baggage (if I can continue an already shaky analogy) and show it to the world. At least, not the world that my family inhabits.
Anyway. Here’s to pretending that your mother doesn’t read your work, and then asking her later what she thought of it.