I would rather write in the dark. I would rather write in hiding, where inspiration flickers gently like a candle, on a pew in the Chapel balcony, the third floor of the library's stacks. Instead, I write this under dim lights, sitting alone in a popular study spot where I’ll likely get mistaken for a student (again) and asked exactly what it is I’m doing on campus (again).
Why is it so hard to be seen?
I’ve been reading a book about technology, about how we depend so much on our devices and so little on each other, called Alone Together by Sherry Turkle. She argues that our tumblring and our blogging and our social networking is really about hiding. She raises a cautionary tale that I’ve been told before-that it’s much easier to be vulnerable with our words when we can’t see who’s reading them on the other side of the screen, and that we ought to be careful before we weave ourselves into the world wide web.
But for me, writing here has never been a way to close in or close down or close up.
Writing here has opened me up.
It keeps me accountable for,
keeps me attentive to,
keeps me asking questions of my own life.
Not all the feedback a writer gets is affirmation, you know. Granted, it means the world when a friend says, “You wrote the words I was searching for.” But it means the health of my soul when another friend says, “What about that paragraph? What did you mean by that?” or (even better/tougher) “That’s not the way I remember it.”
Compliments and “likes” signal appreciation of the story; Questions and disagreements show investment in it. And while my egocentric self would much prefer to be stroked by the former, the latter has been my best education in the merits of constructive criticism. (I’m growing so accustomed to it that I had a momentary delusion in which I thought I might join and enjoy an actual writers’ group. Good heavens.)
Turkle says it’s about hiding, but gosh, it feels so much more like being found out. The smell of burnt espresso, the chit chat of study groups filling the booths, the sound of some crooner bemoaning his lost love over an A minor chord, it’s all setting the stage of my biggest expose yet; The one in which I tell you, dear reader, that there are times when writing here scares me to death.
Especially that one post-about happily ever after?-I mean, what was I thinking?!? As I edited and re-edited, counting the times I used the word “happy” through clenched teeth and cutting whole paragraphs of sappy romance, I had to fight that killer instinct hissing through her teeth: “You know what they say. Ignorance is bliss. Just wait until year three, year seven, year twenty. Wait until you see what marriage is really about. Let’s see what sort of happily ever after you’ll be living then.”
How do you kill that killer instinct?
I’m still thinking through our options, but in the meantime, I know this for sure:
Whatever your risk is right now, keep taking it.
Is it raising your hand to speak in a class of 40? Getting a good night’s sleep instead of feigning productivity? Starting a new conversation where an awkward one left off?
Is it singing out? standing up? stopping by?
Whatever your risk may be, make no mistake: You are being called. Sure, you may be a little hard of hearing. It may very well be a deafening season of life for you, filled with the white noise of emails and assignments and deadlines. That’s not bad noise per se, but it's noise nonetheless, and it will distract us if we’re not careful.
Let’s you and me take a moment sometime this week to be alone, be still, and listen.
And when that other distracting, hate-mongering voice starts coming in loud and clear, telling us falsehoods about our worth? Let’s take it as a sign that we are risking in the right direction.
And then, let’s go.
P.S. A sweet girl just walked by and said, “Lacy! I thought you were a student!” I smiled. Of course she did. “I mean that as a compliment,” she hurried to add. Well, in that case, I’m flattered.