When you sit in your quiet writing space and create a blog post, there’s a sense of solitude. Even though, somewhere in the recesses of your little writing brain, you know what you’re doing will be public.
It’s a common dichotomy for any person who chooses to step out publicly: balancing public and private. For writers in particular, if you can’t cut deeply into your emotions, you can’t create stories that will also touch another’s emotions. So you must be brutally honest and public, about things intimately private.
I’ve never given this much thought until recently when I posted about losing a loved one. The loss was so raw, so shocking (and still is). The only way I can process is through words and so I posted. Not thinking of readers at all. Simply deep in my grief. Not thinking about private tears exposed publicly.
Then the comments started coming in. People thanking me. Sharing the post. Some complimenting me. One of my dearest, oldest friends said ‘you were always meant to be a writer and this proves it’. I cried after that one.
And then started feeling anger. Thinking that I didn’t write that piece to be thanked. I didn’t write it thinking about author craft. I didn’t write it seeking compliments.
I didn’t write it thinking of myself as a writer creating something.
It became difficult to respond to comments. How do you say a cheery little ‘thanks!’ when the reason you wrote those words is so heart-breaking?
Another friend stepped in to tell me that people weren’t thanking me for what I created, but thanking me for saying what they couldn’t. Okay…but again, how do you respond? Especially when one of the people thanking you is his mother?
A huge sense of responsibility descended. How dare I consider myself the right person to say what other’s can’t? I’m not good enough.
All of this swirled around until it’s now a tornado of words and reactions and questions with no answers.
And in the eye of that storm is the deep silence of grief.
All I can do is write selfishly about my private thoughts. All I can do is forget about the public platform those private words sit on.
But there must be a better word, a better reaction than ‘thanks’. What I want to happen, to each and every person who compliments me or thanks me, is to hug them instead of speaking. To stand in silence and share, probably with tears, those emotions and memories my words might have inadvertently touched.
I want those private words to become community, not public. To create family and friendship and connection instead of congratulations.
So if you thank me, please know my stumbling response, or embarrassment, or discomfort, has nothing to do with you and everything to do with loss.