Because I can’t not: writing in community.

Since publishing the admission of my deconversion from Christianity, I’ve been questioning myself an awful lot (to put it quite delicately).

Maybe I shouldn’t have written it. Maybe I should have kept playing along so I didn’t hurt anyone. Maybe I should have kept it all to myself for the rest of my life. Maybe the timing was bad. Maybe I should have consulted with anyone who would have been upset about it before publishing. Maybe, maybe, maybe…

I keep coming back to the same answers. I had to write it. Lying to everyone for the rest of my life would have been more damaging to us all than telling the truth has been. There was never going to be a “right time” for it. Consulting with those who would be hurt by it would have only served to delay then intensify the pain, because their displeasure wouldn’t have kept me from publishing.

That leads me to two questions that apply both to that post in particular but also to my entire blog:

  1. Why did I write it, and why do I write in general?
  2. Why did I write it publicly, and why do I write in public?

Ever since I knew enough words and how to spell them, I have written. I distinctly remember sitting in my desk in my first grade classroom when the realization hit me that the words and stories I loved so much were not out of my grasp. That, in fact, I had the power to create my own stories. This became crucial the older I got, as I filled diary after journal after notebook, articulating my thoughts and questions and ideas to the best of my ability.

Writing has always been a powerful thing for me. It helps me organize my mind in a way that thinking alone can’t do. Even talking things out loud with someone doesn’t help me organize and name the things in my head. The process of having the words to name situations, ideas, worries, fears, and concerns helps take away some of their power and enable me to deal with them in a healthy way.

Sometime around 2004, I started blogging. I didn’t know that’s what it was called — I just thought it was called Xanga. I only interacted with people I already knew through church camp and Christian school, and it worked well for me. I used it mostly as a way to keep in touch with friends. When MySpace came along, I got on that bandwagon, too. Same with Facebook as soon as it opened up to the public. As an introvert, I loved being able to control my social interactions online and as a very fast typist (around 90 words per minute), I was able to get out my thoughts much more quickly than I could by writing long-hand. People would comment on my writing, challenge my thoughts, encourage my ability. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was forming my own community, culled from already-existing facets of my life.

When I got back home from my embarrassingly short stint at university in early 2009 with a bruised heart and broken spirit, I began retreating into myself. Writing had always served to help me work out my emotions, but I found introspection to be too painful, too triggering, too damn hard. Eventually, I stopped writing altogether, limiting myself to amusing status updates and business-related tweets, feeling completely at a loss as to how to deal with the depth of sadness and confusion I was experiencing. I lost a lot of friends for various reasons in various ways, and I was physically far away from the few friends I had. My outlet for organizing my thoughts, expressing my emotions, confronting my fears and exploring my questions was gone, leaving those emotions and fears and questions to simmer just beneath the surface until they began to bubble up and spill out of cracks that I never knew I had, hurting myself and the ones I loved the most.

I started joining forums, reading blogs, following people on Twitter. I did a lot of listening, feeling a lot of shock upon learning that I was not alone in some of my experiences. I found so much comfort in their words, so much hope. Learning I wasn’t alone helped me find the courage to face the darkness within. I started writing again.

I wrote anonymously at first, working out some of the hurt and anxiety and fear and anger that I’d kept bottled up for so long that I felt alien to myself. When I began to feel like me again, like I had found myself amidst the confusion in my brain, I felt strong enough to start writing here, on this blog, under my own name. I wanted to share my thoughts, my ideas. Show how things have affected me and explore how to learn from my experiences to help me work for the betterment of my corner of the world.

My thought all along has been, “Maybe someone will read what I write and find the same power of words that I discovered as a first-grader. Maybe someone will read my words and finally be able to name their fears and find that the darkness has a little less power in their lives. Maybe they will read this blog and find out that they are not alone. Maybe they will find part of a community here.”

Sometimes I forget that. Sometimes, I worry that writing publicly means that people now own my life and my stories, that I’m not allowed to set boundaries. Sometimes I worry that writing publicly is just an ego trip, a narcissistic grab for attention. Sometimes I worry that I’m doing it all wrong, that I have to keep all my uncertainties hidden.

Deep down, I know none of that is true.

Having a public blog doesn’t obligate me to put up with emotional abuse. If I hadn’t experienced the power of community fostered by sharing honest writing, I would simply keep a private journal and not share publicly — this isn’t done out of narcissism. I know that keeping things hidden in darkness is a recipe for disaster, that truth and light and love are healthy.

And so I’m going to keep writing, and I’m going to keep publishing it. Because I can’t not write, and I believe in the power of words and community.

5 thoughts on “Because I can’t not: writing in community.

  1. Hi Dani, thanks for this post. I don’t think that you’re a narcissist (had to look up how to spell that and am still not certain it’s correct). You’re a writer and you need to tell stories. I recently started a blog and also wonder if it’s somehow uncouth to share personal thoughts in public. But, like you, I feel that it’s helpful to have honest thoughts put out there, to say “this is how I’m feeling, maybe you get it” – that through it someone may realise they’re not alone. Plus I just really love writing and want people to read it! Please continue to share your work – we need your stories.

  2. Dear Dani,
    I have been following the tidbits you have drop about what has happened with you. Since you vanished I have simply waited and prayed. And missed the fact you had a blog. *facepalm* I am glad to see you writing again. Also, be sure to pencil me into the ‘friends I still have’ column, because wherever our divergent paths in life may have led us, you are stuck with me. :-). I do not often reach out, even to my own friends, but if you reach for me, I will always be there.
    Yours Truly,
    Joel Funk.

  3. Dani, I was feeling blocked and ashamed in my writing yesterday, and found so much support from this post. “Sometimes, I worry that writing publicly means that people now own my life and my stories, that I’m not allowed to set boundaries.” Exactly!! As an abuse survivor, I struggle with that all the time, whether writing fiction or “fact”. Thank you for giving your readers the gift of your honesty and vulnerability.

  4. Pingback: The Dropouts: Dani Kelley « Plymouth Brethren Dropout

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