Censoring Myself

Press Publish put out a conversation starter this week about the pros, cons and reasons for writing your blog anonymously. Consider it a complete success, because it certainly got me thinking…

Writing has always been one of the ways I most effectively process things. My sporadically utilized diary from elementary school can attest to that as can the pseudo-emo poetry I scribbled down while weathering a crisis of self and place early in college. Writing is therapeutic.

When craving the outlet of words years later, I started this. I can’t recall the exact reason why I wanted to do my writing in a public, if relatively unknown, blog. But it set me free, felt amazing and was one of the best things I’ve done in recent history for myself. I wrote about myself, yes, but more for myself.

I sought the freeing protection of anonymity, which let me express thoughts in a safe bubble of the unknown.

It was liberating and addicting. I was hooked.

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And as with anything exciting in life, I quickly informed my nearest and dearest of my new endeavor. I’ve never excelled at keeping my enthusiasm bottled up inside. Sharing is caring, right?

Once a few close friends and family were included into my world of writing, I realized that my freedom had been restricted by my own doing. I could no longer write anything I wanted to in any manner I felt like, because I generally strive not to be a jerk. Let me explain.

I try to error on the side of diplomatic, whenever possible, often to a fault. I try really hard not to offend.  Which naturally leads to evaluating thoughts before expressing them, attention to phrasing, and in the case of writing a blog, some light censorship.

Sometimes that “be polite or die” attitude will dissipate for a bit, when there is a particular topic really eating away at me. (My recent rant on female friendships being a good example.) So if there is something that I truly need to process through writing, it WILL be said and not always in the most gracious of terms. Writing about things that eat away at me can be a need, not a choice.

But in general, and particularly over the past year when knowledge of my writing has become more widespread within my circle of friends and acquaintances, I feel the sharp sting of this loss of anonymity more strongly. I feel a more potent urge to hold back in my writing, lest I offend.

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I censor for my friends. I have heavily edited posts or simply not written them because of where I know people are at in their lives. Sometimes I’m concerned that a conversation that triggered a train of thoughts for me will hit too close to home for another, no matter my intentions.

I censor for my parents as well. I just want to be respectful of them and never make them uncomfortable. Yes, they know I’m a grown-ass woman and have romantic relationships and all. (And maybe sometimes that word that starts with s and ends in ex?) They have certainly never asked me to not talk about any topic and never would. My blog is for me. They read at their own risk.

But still, once you know your audience, how can your subjects and delivery not be affected?

I cannot disconnect from the knowledge of who some of my readers are. It’s impossible for me to not care about how my words sound to others. My blog may be personal, but it is not truly anonymous anymore.

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So that’s the silly thing about my anonymous yet un-anonymous blog, boys and girls. I want to always write from a place of purity, a disconnected voice from the ether writing about feels and cupcakes. I crave absolute freedom of speech. But in the same vein, I want to share my thoughts, big or esoteric, with my close friends and family. And writing for an audience will never read the same as personal writing for yourself. At least not mine.

I occasionally feel stifled by these self imposed restrictions, by the fact that personal relationships with my readers can alter my writing. But I treasure the conversations it can spark. I value the ability to maintain strong links with friends far away, letting them into my life in a much more personal and real way than curated Facebook updates. Sometimes when I write I feel as if I’m directly talking to my loved ones, versus simply jotting down thoughts and tossing them into the endless abyss of the internet.

At what point do I embrace the fact that I am not actually an anonymous writer?

This coy game of M with no face, starts to seem tired and silly. The jig is up, right? No, I don’t use real names of those I mention in tales and that will never change. (Nicknames are more fun, anywho.) But what really is the point of not using my name or having my photo on here, huh? Is it diplomatic or cagey?

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The non-proverbial question is, could seeing my face and having tangible “About the Author” change the impression of my words for readers who I don’t know in real life?

Or is living this one foot in and one foot out hokey pokey dance of actually a magical place to be? Is it the best of both worlds? I don’t have an answer.

Maybe you do, dear blogosphere?

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** All images from renemagritte.org

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