Day 32: Writing as performing.

Earlier today I wanted to write about how grateful I am. Mostly as a tonic for the anxiety that surrounds my business life right now--I'm writing a business plan. I saw a woman sitting in her car when I went into the grocery store, and when I came back, she had tipped the seat back and was sleeping. For all I know she was waiting for someone, killing time, whatever, but I was flooded with gratitude at all this SPACE in my apartment, even if it is expensive and I have to keep it clean. I felt the seat of my own car and thought, "You know, even if it did get worse, I'd be alright. This car is comfortable."

I started mentally writing a blog post on the subject and I couldn't stop thinking about all those stupid posts about how hashtag blessed a person's life is, all the humble bragging--and then the ironic, eye-rolling counter posts about how smug and annoying the hashtag blessed set are. The eternal battle of the earnest and the ironic. The optimist and the pessimist. I AM grateful. But I don't know if I can say that out loud right now.

I thought about how much we perform on social media, how we share the kinds of identities we want to have. I don't have a particular judgment to make on the subject, but obviously the topic of what and how to share is of interest in the midst of this project.

Nicole Antoinette talks about online sharing as a form of healing out loud, which was interesting. She also talked about developing a sense of when she was sharing something because it was true, and when she was sharing something because it would make her look good.

Carolyn Elliott talks about reflecting and affirming the identity of your reader when she talks about writing good sales copy for the web, which was the first time I'd heard it said this way but completely hit the nail on the head. She talks about how you are the hero of your own facebook page, and how you can tell your own story in a more compelling way.

And we all know you can't compare your inner life to someone else's social media life. We've seen the social media posts that perform imperfection and vulnerability, and then we've seen the posts that are actually vulnerable. We're savvy. We can tell the difference.

One can be cynical about this whole thing, talk about the ways that people are using social media and blogging to craft an image, to get attention, to make sales, and yes, that's correct, people are doing that. I've done that. It can be ruthless. It can be narcisstic. It can be totally dull.

But I also think we use online performance to figure out who we are. Perhaps there are better ways to do that, or maybe just older ways, but as someone who has used writing to sort out the edges of who I am for most of my life, I don't think it's a bad thing if it happens online. "Oversharing" is just a word we use to tell someone their experience isn't welcome here.

It can be productive to me to think about the identities I hold in my heart: Who do I want to be? Why do I not perform that identity online? And usually, if I'm really invested in that identity, I'll start writing or sharing about it. Yes, I take a million flower pictures. I really like flowers. But flowers can be a lot of things. I could like flowers as a designer--abstracting the color and texture. I could like flowers as a romantic symbol of love, and life, and growth, or whatever (obvi not my personal jam but you do you). For me, I like learning the names of flowers, because I want to be some kind of wilderness woman. So I blog more about what plants I see, and what they are like. I have no idea if people want to read my observations of the jacaranda tree, but I like to read those kinds of things.

Making live performance works the same way--you have a million choices, you could do anything, and yet you do the thing that is most yourself. Even if that's not your aim, it comes out. Sometimes you get derivative work that clings to what it has seen without doing anything, but you get strange, transcendent perfection. The latter is a voice. And you find your voice in using it, by hearing it in contrast to others, by hearing where it resonates with other voices.

I used to think writing was a pure, isolated voice--one solitary person speaking their own truth. Probably because I contrasted it with dance. Dance is a very jumbled form, with lots of voices cooperating in complicated ways. But even when you're writing in your journal, all by your lonesome, you're writing to some mental audience. There's always an audience. Dear diary. You're the kind of person who writes edgy poems or the kind of person who sarcastically undercuts every point you make with footnotes. It's okay. We all perform every day.

So I won't roll my eyes at identities performed online. I won't hate-read. I will try to get better, to be more interesting for you--hopefully not to perform interestingness, but to provide interestingness via other kinds of performance. And I will keep seeking the line of sharing because it makes me look good and sharing because it is good. I will read the people who affirm my identity as a writer. And I'll try not to get too tangled up in these questions.

“Being natural is simply a pose, and the most irritating pose I know.”
― Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray


Hey! It would be useful to know what you're interested in. So vote for what you like!