I write quite a bit.
As I write this post, I have about 500 posts on this blog. I’m closing in on over 300 weekly posts in my newsletter. You can check out my vitae to see what I’ve written in more traditional spaces. Lord knows how much I’ve written on social networks, Slack channels, and some of the other spaces that collect dust.
I feel like writing helps me think. Writing helps me express myself. Talking often trips me up and I get too emotional. Seeing the characters appear on the screen as my fingers float across the keyboard seems easier as honesty is given space to show up to the party.
Yet, with all of this writing, I feel like I’m not being truthful to myself. As much as I use words like radical transparency, and urge others to be open, I don’t follow my own guidance. I share a version of myself that I think others want to see. I’m beginning to wonder why I care about that version of my identity. In all honesty, most of the individuals I use as guides when I think about blogging, writing, and open scholarship urged me not to do this from the very beginning. 😉
Seek honesty, not truth
In my writing, I try to weave together a comprehensive piece from a jumbled mix of experience, influence, and imperfect memories. I straddle a line between what I want to write, and what I think others want to read. I mix together an examination of my life, with some self-reflection while trying to teach some sort of a lesson.
When you write, there is always a certain amount of fear. As Mary Karr indicates in her commencement address below…every time I was super afraid, it was of the wrong thing.
I first learned about Mary Karr on an episode of the Tim Ferriss show. Karr was talking about memoir, the creative process, and finding gifts in the suffering.
As Karr talked about writing memoirs, it occurred to me that in many ways, I already do this. On this blog, I’ve written some reflective pieces about suffering, loss, and death. This is always from the point of view as I think about living and learning with technology. There are some things I would like to write, yet I always hold back. There is that fear that others will judge me, and think less of me. Strangely, I regularly share more of myself and my background in my classes.
I’ve shared my trials and tribulations with students I’ve had in classes in middle grades, high school, and higher education. I do this as I’m seeking honesty with students and urging them to think about their own paths and meeting challenges. I’m inspired by psychologist Lev Vygotsky and allowing others to see the path that I’ve followed as they embark on their own journey.
Seeking honesty in memoirs
I’ve never thought that I write memoirs. A memoir is a historical account based on personal knowledge or special sources. My posts all focus on living and learning in an age of screentime. It is equal parts how-to manual, meditation, and essay on a learned subject.
In her book, The Art of Memoir, Karr shares “an incomplete checklist to stave off dread” as a way that she approaches the process. From this, I culled the following guidance.
- Find your voice – Write what you know. Be yourself. This is a challenge and one that I struggle with up to this day. Hence the point of this post, even with the amount that I’ve already written.
- Inner conflict drives the story – We often struggle with two opposing motivations in our heads. These may be based on beliefs, needs, or the viewpoints of others. Try to unpack that in your writing.
- Use the tools of the trade – Show as opposed to telling as you fill your writing with sensory language, metaphors, images, and details. From a blogging perspective, embed multimodal content (links, images, figures, GIFs, video).
- Go meta – Meta means about the thing itself. Seeing the situation from a higher perspective instead of from within the situation, like being self-aware. Consider the impact of your actions and writing, as opposed to simply acting it out.
- Tell all parts of the story – Find the beginning, middle, and end of your story. Readers expect to find each of these pieces as they engage and connect. From a blogging perspective, this will mean that you may need to chunk content.
- Revise, revise, revise – The first draft is almost always crap. Commit yourself to constantly improving your writing to make every word count.
- Strive for honesty, not truth – Don’t lie to your audience. Don’t lie to yourself. Dishonesty and performative actions will stick out for all to see. If you have trauma, neglect, or sorrow to contend with, be a human and reckon with it.
Lead with your own talent
As we write, especially writing memoirs, we try to make sense of our own experiences and processes. We use our memories, identities, and personal histories to make sense of the world around us. This may provide a cathartic experience for ourselves or others.
For more own writing, I will focus on the following pieces of my process:
- Find moments of meaning – I will find the moments in my life to keep coming back to my thoughts and write about them. I’ll look for these ideas that stick out and write posts or take notes to make sure I do not forget them.
- Discover themes – I’ll try to identify larger themes that connect the moments of meaning that resonate over time. Try and connect the dots to show how everything fits together.
- Give myself permission to write – I’ll work to silence the self-doubt and critical voices in my head. I know what they have to say, and will not give them more power than they deserve. I also will not allow the viewpoints of others to impact the narrative that I choose to share.
I think we fall in love and become adults and become citizens in a way by writing stories about ourselves.Mary Karr