Writing something personal and sharing it with your community is hard. Fiction gives you plenty of places to hide–of course that isn’t my dad, smoking that cigar and talking loudly on a cell phone! That is a totally different Baptist Church in that story–a made-up one!
But the anticipation of something you know some other people won’t like–that’s even harder. Recently, I talked with local writer Diane Daniel, who interviewed me before her essay, “Gender Change: Losing Him, Loving Her” was published in today’s News and Observer (her story is somewhat like the fictional Melinda and Jonas’s). Diane’s essay is beautiful–thoughtful and brave–but she was nervous about what people might say, in the comments. Most of the negative comments on Diane’s essay go something like this: “and you think this is news? Why does writing something personal make you special? Why publish it at all?”
Because other people need to read it, that’s why–I’m not even thinking of the people who are hateful or ignorant, but people who feel isolated and alone, people who might draw some courage from Diane’s story. Recently I shared a very-difficult-to-write essay with my senior AP English students, and it made a huge difference in what they were willing to tackle in their own writing. My essay will be in Orion’s March/April issue. I’ll write more about it soon.
In the meantime, please check out Diane’s essay here. Writing something personal, and being willing to share it, does make you special. I tell my kids that all the time.
(pictured above: Lina Kok and Diane Daniel. Photo by Takaaki Iwabu of the News and Observer.)