When I’m not trying to peddle writing advice, I write a lot about myself and my life. Most of it (like me, myself) is very unflattering.
There’s something kind of therapeutic about the whole idea of pulling apart all of the ugly pieces in the dark, and trying to find a shimmer of starlight on the parts that don’t suck so bad. It’s a kind of public journalist, self-flagellation, auto-therapy, and passing down advice to the next generation and the rest of the world, all at the same time.
Sharing your truth in all of its brutal glory is a worthwhile cause, especially in a world that values the superficial.
Even if there are some people who’ll get upset about it.
I never understood the mentality that people should keep their problems to themselves. I’ve never liked the idea that certain things shouldn’t be talked about with other people, just because they don’t share the dubious honor of being a relative.
Oh, that’s a family thing. We don’t air our dirty laundry.
The problem with that is that your dirty laundry is your shared humanity. Your dirty laundry is a way of connecting with the rest of the world. It’s how we remind each other that we’re more than the happy-smiling-good times pictures on Instagram and the passive-aggressive attention-seeking vagueposts on Facebook.
Your dirty laundry makes you real. And it’s your right to share it.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be mindful of other people where you can. If for no other reason than that shit cuts both ways. When I write about my friends, especially in a less-than-positive light, I withhold their names wherever I can.
When it comes to my family? Well, they’re shit out of luck.
Sure, you can try to write about your family with the same oblique angle that Robert Muller’s indictments name Donald Trump, but that’s less than clever. Eventually, most people are going to wise up that Individual-1 and Individual-2 are Mom and Dad, and it just looks like a vague bit dodgy nonsense.
That said, I try to approach writing about family with a little bit of grace, realizing that we’re all fucked up humans who had to spend a few decades more-or-less locked into the same shitty world with each other.
But, ultimately, I’m going to tell my stories. They are, for better or worse, a part of that. They are, to differing degrees, responsible for the delightfully neurotic person who’s typing this now.
And, if they want to write their own stories, the way that they saw it, they are more than welcome to. I’d actually get a bit of value out of their perspective of me. They can do it here on Medium, too. I might even clap for them.
We may live in a world that values silence and privacy and putting our best face forward, but I don’t. And, chances are, if you’re writing here, you don’t, either.
So, write. Write courageously. Write as honestly as you can. It’s your gift to the world; there’s no reason to hide it away.
Zach J. Payne is, to borrow the words of Lin-Manuel Miranda, “a polymath, a pain in the ass, a massive Payne”. He is a thespian, poet, and writer for young adults. He is the #2 Ninja Writer. Follow along on his adventure, and receive his Query Letter, Deconstructed.