rm (rm) wrote,

LJ Idol, 10: Whose LJ is it anyway? Balancing personal expression and friends list sensibilities.

As a writer of, among other things, the personal essay, the last thing I am concerned about in my writing is the sensibilities of the members of the unfortunately-named LiveJournal friends list.

Instead, I concern myself with what is the burden of anyone who is a personal essayist. That is, how do I tell the truth and tell it with point and art while also respecting the lives of people who either don't know I'm a writer or couldn't really do much about that fact when they chose to entwine, however briefly, their existence with my own?

It's a complicated question, often ugly, and one I've been struggling with for most of my life.

My ex, Michael, and I, used to have terrible and bitter fights about such things. It is only unfair to say that this is the reason we are not together because that was merely the most obvious symptom of a deeper and all-pervasive disconnect between us.

When you ask me not to write about you, you are asking me to forgo a sense, as if I am blind, as if food is no longer to have taste. I only finish seeing in the telling of the story.

I was very young then, and was, to be amusingly understated, somewhat less than gifted with discretion. But he too was flawed, not knowing the difference between privacy and shame, and using it often, as a weapon against me and how I would live.

Since then, I have come to understand that I will never be able to make everyone in my life comfortable with my words. Similarly, I have come to understand that there is little to be gained by asking permission to do what I do -- which is tell stories.

Some of the most important stories I have told were maybe not so much mine to tell, and my life has become a balance, not between what I may say and what I musn't, but the cost of declaration versus the price of silence.

Similarly, many of the stories I have told and will continue to tell can and do effect how people view me. Luckily, as someone without a traditional corporate job and no desire for one, I can afford certain snap judgments maybe other people cannot. It is not that I have done nothing I am ashamed of, rather, it is that I can think of nothing so shameful, so useless, as silence in the face of even the most fatal flaws. All events are suitable to confession; the trick is finding the manner of it. And the time.

LJ is a medium in which audience and interest is constantly self-selecting. My first account here was as an early adopter, and I have had people reading my journal come and go and stay since then for all sorts of reasons -- some related to my content and some more related to their lives, goals or LJ usage patterns.

As a writer, it is never my job to protect the audience, but to inform and arouse in all manner of what some would view as too limiting a word. As an LJ'er, my concern for the sensibilities of my audience (because that is what a "friend of" list is, although I am blessed that many of these people are also my real friends and intimates), is limited to the basic decorums of this medium -- that is, I use cut tags for images that are not work-safe or may overload someone's technical capabilities.

The rest is up to the reader. As a writer, I've got quandaries enough without taking on responsibilities that truly have no reason to be mine.

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