Monday, July 4, 2011

Keeping It Real

“Don’t bottle up your feelings!” Who hasn’t heard that before? It’s true, you know. You really shouldn’t. It’s much healthier on every level to let them out. Bottling up your feelings is really unhealthy. It increases your stress level, and it can actually make you physically sick. So, let all that pent up crap fly. For some people that means talking about their problems, but, for some of us, it means diving into our creative outlet and pouring it all out. If you’re a painter, or if you make music, or if you sculpt, or… perhaps even if you write… you know what I mean by that.

For those of us who tend to “create” when we have something inside, there are options you face when creating. How much of yourself and your inner struggles and emotional bullshit do you actually pour into the project? How honest do you get about it? And, if you choose to take it all the way; really dump your heart, soul and guts into something, do you then show it to the world, or do you slip it into the way back part of the closet behind the ugly clothes you never wear?

I always find it a little silly when I hear controversy about paintings or sculptures that depict things people find “offensive.” Nudity, sexuality… whatever the case may be, if you ask the artist what they were trying to showcase they never say “I’m just really into porn, so I thought… hey… paint naked people getting it on.” Maybe you have to have a different mindset to understand that kind of art than some of the stuffier “shocked” folks have, I honestly don’t know. Personally, that stuff never shocks me. But, I’m into writing… that’s my outlet, and my way of expressing myself and my way of coping… I write. So, especially when writing this blog, the question comes up for me all the time: In attempting to keep it real, how real is too real?

I honestly don’t have any issue with pouring out my personal feelings, my thoughts, my opinions, sharing my most personal experiences or confronting my fears publicly. I really do believe right down to my bone marrow that life is entirely too short to ever hold back. Those of you who know me know perfectly well that I’m not shy about telling you in open wound fashion if I love you, what I think your greatest qualities are, or how important you are to me. I’m also not ashamed to discuss private matters if I think my experiences could help you gain some kind of insight into something you’re going through or if you are considering doing something I have experience with.

No, my issues with keeping it real arise when I consider how things I might share would affect other people. You may have noticed that many times when I tell stories I do so without mentioning names. I do that in the hopes that those I’m speaking of will feel anonymous enough not to be upset that I’ve blogged about them. (*Thus far, those who I’ve mentioned have known instantly that they were the person in my story and nobody has been upset… yet.) As a writer, though, there are so many other stories I’d like to tell… so many other things I’d like to share… so many things I go through that, were it not for the feelings of other people, I’d spill my guts out about in the realest possible fashion.

So enters the cliché: Some things are better left unsaid. Unfortunately, as a writer, this really cuts me off in a way I’m struggling with. How polite is too polite? I mean, if writing is my way of coping, do I simply write these things … get it all out… and then delete the file? More and more I’m coming to the conclusion that that’s not really “getting out of my system” at all. In fact, in some way, that’s bottling it all up. I am struggling with trying to answer the question: When are you being unfair to yourself by trying to be kind to others? I’m not about to post something that I think will upset someone I love, yet what does that leave a truly honest and open person to do when they write? It makes me feel like my hands are tied sometimes.

I’ve often heard the phrase “artistic integrity” and never really thought much about it. I guess I didn’t really consider myself an artist. But I do think writing is an art, and one I couldn’t possibly live without. Keeping this blog real is getting harder and harder… because there are things I want to write about that are my observations and opinions about life. My life, the world around me, the people I know and love, and how I feel about things … it was the whole point of starting this thing… and now moving forward may require that people who know me well realize that writing truly is what makes me whole. I can cope with nothing difficult in life if I cannot write about it, and writing about it cannot consist of hitting the delete key in the end, or leaving a will that states “Ok, I’m dead now. Here’s how I felt.”

So… if you paint, or sculpt, or dance, or create beautiful music… do so in a way that is true to yourself, because if you don’t, you might just as well move yourself to the back of the closet with the rest of your reality. I’ve decided not to live there.

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