Lately I’ve been bumping against an unusual problem. In reaching deep to get to some of the best emotions I can convert to prose, I’m in danger of exposing things to the light that could come back to bite me.
It started with a poem I wrote about a childhood experience. I had acted like a brat — not unusual for an eleven-year-old. What was unusual was that I had done so at school and had nearly been caught at it. I’d found myself happily participating in the behind-the-scenes ridicule of one of my classmates. It was a powerful lesson to me at the time, and I thought it was a good time to exorcise the ghost these many decades later.
That is, it was a good idea until I read it to friends. I never expected judgment, but there it was. I was being chastised. Sure, I deserved it, but then. Not now. And certainly not from people who were just as guilty of the same thing at some point in their lives (aren’t we all?).
It’s a risk we run when we bare our sore spots in public. Maybe the reactions I received were because the universal truth of the situation — the bitching behind someone’s back — started to exhume those ghosts we spend our lives trying to bury. Or maybe I really was a nasty little thing and the world needed to remind me of it in my adulthood.
Still, it takes some amount of courage to open your life up for examination. Corrine Hales did so when she wrote her gut-wrenching poem “Power” about how she and her brother once stopped a train in an unusual way.
Where it gets tricky for me, though, is exposing the truths that involve others. One I’m writing now involves the flaws of others and my reaction (or lack of reaction) to those flaws. How much can I reveal? So far, the entire piece talks about the flaw, but not the person who’s at fault. The person will know upon reading it, but to me, revealing identities in this particular piece doesn’t add anything valuable.
Then I find myself wondering would I reveal identities if it did add value? Hmm.
Right now, I’m doing my best to write about flaws with more humanity and from a place of understanding of the person. However, if it’s my flaw in question, all bets are off. I open the vein, bleed it onto the page, and hope the readers will see something familiar and understand.
If not, I’m destined to be judged.
Poets, how personal do you get in your writing?
Have you ever written something so revealing that you’ve regretted it later?