October 06, 2016

Sharing Less

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“Don’t share your story before you’re ready or healed. It’s abusive to yourself.” – Brene Brown

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I’m bored of writing about myself.

Maybe that’s what writing a book does to you.

I’m excited for what’s next.

Back in 2009, when I first started this blog (then called Girl Lost in the City), I would overshare to the point that I would be terrified to post it, and I would always avoid sharing it on Facebook. Facebook ironically was full of friends and family, but that’s why it was scarier to me – like knowing people in the audience of the school play is often scarier than rows of faceless randoms. You feel like they are looking more closely to find something to criticise even though that’s never really true. In fact, I soon realised that was the opposite of true. It felt less scary to share things on Twitter. Twitter is full of mates who also blog and followers of the blog who “get it”. Fine. Read all about my vulnerability. Come on in.

It wasn’t actually total “normal” back then to be writing your feelings so unabashedly on the Internet. We hadn’t yet really navigated the whole “professional vs personal” online presence. “Can you have a blog talking about your messed up life and also be taken seriously at work?” Nowadays we’re used to it, and it’s a good thing. The only thing I read religiously around 2009 was Ryan O’Connell’s column for Thought Catalog where he wrote in detail about mental health, sex, relationships and being a confused 20-something trying to hunt down a career.

Fast forward to now, we are totally on board with what was once called “over-sharing”. Now it’s just called “talking” and it’s made a big difference to me. I’m glad teens have endless blog posts and YouTube videos to Google if they’re ever feeling confused or alone. Every time I scan through Bloglovin’ or YouTube’s homepage there’s videos with titles like “Why I’m Quitting My Job” or “A Difficult Week” or “What You Need To Know About Panic Attacks” and thank god that sharing your truth has become something totally normal. I love reading about other people because the whole purpose is to make other people feel less alone. By looking inside the hearts and minds of others we learn a whole load more about ourselves in the process.

I wanted others to feel that feeling I would get from my favourite writers: to feel less alone, normal, relieved – whatever the word is. My feelings and opinions and vulnerability were on a plate and all you had to do what click on to my blog post to read it if you wanted to. The comments and tweets would be make feel better. But I couldn’t kid myself: I was looking for reassurance. I was in my early twenties and yes, I wanted people to read my blog and go “ohhh poor you” or “oh you’re so brave” or “ohh I get it.”

The flip-side of this however, is what a few people have called “emotional clickbait.” People giving that constant “shock factor” in their writing (or YouTube videos) to up their traffic numbers and blog hits. Less about connection, more about the social media shares. Ryan O’Connell speaks about this on my podcast, about how turning your Tragic Experiences into ~content~ for somebody else’s entertainment isn’t exactly fulfilling or sustainable in the long run. Of course, it’s a personal choice and the podcast conversation sums it up better than I can in a sentence.

I’m not saying that people who write about themselves every day are thirsty, I’m just saying that I was. The egg-timer is up on that.

The point of writing publicly isn’t to get validation for being a human-being. That’s what your friends are for. Writing is about writing your heart out and then leaving it the fuck alone for people to interrupt as they wish.

I’ve had a lot of feedback that my book feels “raw” to people when they read it, which I take as a massive compliment. But, unlike a lot of my previous work, it’s not raw to me. I processed the feelings in that book years ago. I no longer have that teenage venomous hate towards my body; I’m no longer holding onto old feelings regarding ex-relationships, or upset about the friendships that didn’t work out, or care too deeply about the fact I was sex-shamed online as a teenager. You might not believe me, but it’s true – and I wouldn’t have wanted to share it in a book (or magazine articles, or blogs) otherwise. When I was reading the audio, the sound engineer was like: “I’m so sorry that happened, are you OK?” after I read out the chapter about Ben and I looked up from sipping my tea and said “all good, thank you.” I felt fine. I checked to see if my cheeks were red, but they weren’t. I wasn’t carrying an ounce of shame on me. I carried on reading.

The thing is, I don’t want to overshare about my life anymore. Mainly because I don’t find it all that interesting (and maybe I’ve done too much of it?) but all I know is the happier I’ve become within myself, the less I need to talk about myself. The less I share of myself. The less validation I need from the outside world. The less comments I need. The less I care. 

I feel like one day I could write about love. I’ve never written about love before, or about my relationship. When something (or someone) is causing you to have fireworks exploding in your belly, as a writer you feel like you need to grab a pen. There have been quite a few major things going on at the moment and my first reaction hasn’t been “I want to write about this”, it’s been: “for now, this is all mine.”

The past six months have been a magical, scary, bizarre, busy, totally different and unpredictable period of my life. I’ve been more fulfilled than ever before (note I said “fulfilled” rather than “busy”), but also discovered the art of relaxing again, I’ve been earning money in a whole new exciting way, I’m working on projects with some seriously talented people that when I announce, I will be swinging from the ceiling.

So this is the thing.

Not writing about myself doesn’t mean I have nothing to write about. Quite the opposite. I want to collaborate more. I want to make things across many platforms. I want to continue to interview others. I want to continue growing my business. I think what I’m trying to say is: this blog is no doubt changing. It’s going to be less about me.

It’s going to be less about me, and I’ve never been happier.

 

  • This is such an interesting topic. I am really fed up of the constant emotional clickbait you were speaking about. Yes we all want to feel understood and to be relatable or whatever, which is totally normal. But I am now numb to the clickbait and it’s boring.

    I think it’s true that we share less as we are happier in ourselves, but at the same time sharing can be really rewarding.

    Erin x

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