Reason To Write: To Connect With Others

Diana Vilibert: confessional writer, really cool chica...

Way back when, at a time when I was actually managing a products blog over at Nerve, I hired Diana as a blogger. Of course, within the confines of the blog, one couldn’t really see what I loved about her writing: the artistry of her words… the bravery and blatant honesty behind them.

These days, Diana is a freelance writer with clips on Lemondrop, Shape.com, The Frisky, YourTango, CosmoGIRL!, and other publications. She also has a smokin’ hot sex column on Crave Online. She was the web editor for Marie Claire before going rogue.

She writes a lot of lifestyle content, sort of like I do. But what I really love are the snippets she shares on her Tumblr. Because — while all that other stuff no doubt pays her bills — it’s when she’s getting down and dirty and personal that her writing really shines.

So I’m thrilled to feature Diana in this week’s Reason To Write spot. The post below originally appeared on her personal blog.

Someone once asked me if negative feedback on my writing upsets me. I thought about it and said no, not usually. Of course, a few days later, I got a comment that upset me:

You admit you’ve never been married but it’s your writting that makes that point clear. Your thoughts and analysis are always about you. Reading your writting is like listening to a child. I love kids dearly and love talking with them (I work with them) but their analysis and thoughts are incomplete. Why? They haven’t figured out how big the world really is because they still think it revolves around them.

Your writting is well done. However, I wonder how much people can really learn from someone who is completely caught up in herself?

Too bad, your a gifted writter and could be of much greater use.

So when I got this comment, I sat down and hit reply and began drafting a response. I did this a few times and promptly deleted all of my attempts. I was too defensive, too insecure, too snarky right back. After all, I can’t expect everyone to agree with what I write. Hell, even I don’t agree with some things I wrote a year, two years, two months ago.

But that’s kind of the point.

There some things about me that haven’t changed much in the past few years, a few core values, some strong opinions that have only gotten stronger and more well-developed with age, but there is also a lot that has changed. I think differently about many things, usually because I’ve since experienced them in a new way, or experienced them at all. This is true for most people, I think.

For years, before I even dreamed of writing as a career, before oversharing was all the rage, I connected so strongly to confessional writing, especially when it came to dating and sex. I never saw it as an exercise in vanity or self-absorption or a sign of the writer being “caught up in herself.” I saw it as a way to connect, a way to bare yourself in a way that inspired others to do the same, that sparked conversation or introspection.

It made me empathize, it made me think and question, it made me see and feel things that I couldn’t even begin to wrap my head around within the restrictive scope of my own limited experiences.

The same is still true. I have been writing publicly for almost as long as I’ve been dating, but I haven’t been doing either for very long. I imagine — and hope — that I will continue to grow and learn, from my experiences and those of others, whether I am 35 or 60, married or not.

I can’t tell what specifically the commenter is referring to, whether it’s that post that rubbed her the wrong way, or my whole blog, or my writing in general — and I don’t mean for this post to be an attack on her, though her words were the launching point — so I won’t speculate, but I will say this: I am writing a blog. It is not a handbook or a how-to manual or an attack on how anyone else lives their life. And sometimes I write articles elsewhere, and often I talk about myself in those articles, too. It is not because I think the world revolves around me. Quite the opposite, actually.

Have you ever sat around with a group of people, talking about sex and everyone is kind of demure and oh-my-well-I-never! and shifting uncomfortably in their chairs? And finally — just when everyone in that room is silent and thinking about how they’re probably totally abnormal and going to hell for being sexual deviants — finally, someone pipes up and says something about queefing or balls or whatever and everyone just breathes an audible sigh of relief and leans in closer and says yes, and speaking of which This is what confessional writing is to me. It is about being that person. It is about shrugging your shoulders and admitting your flaws and awkwardness and confusion about this messy life. It is about putting your hand on a stranger’s shoulder and saying I get it and oh man, if you think that’s bad… Kumbaya and all.

So I write about myself, not because I haven’t figured out how big the world really is — but precisely because I do understand that it’s big, and bigger than myself and my experiences. I am not an expert on anyone else’s life. I am merely figuring out my own. I am not an expert on love and sex, and certainly not on the love and sex other people are having. But I am a person with my own experiences and opinions, and I can and will comment on those, and what I’ve learned from them and what they mean to me. And perhaps you will read it and nod along in agreement, or perhaps you will email me and tell me about your own experience, or perhaps you will simply roll your eyes and turn off the computer and think about how much I have left to learn. But I hope that you will also keep in mind that I am human and I make mistakes and I change my mind, and I am just trying to figure it all out, just like you. In the meantime, you can find me here. I’ll be the girl talking about queefing and balls.

Comments

  1. i get negative comments from my op-ed columns all the time and while i pretend to have thick skin, some get to me. really get to me. and i hate that because i know it’s not the commenter but the fact that they triggered something i’m probably struggling with somewhere in my psyche which makes it impossible to let the comment go.

    of course, the flip side is that whatever you wrote triggered for the person who left the comment. maybe this commenter feels like TOO MUCH of the big world has taken over her world and left her unable to do the things she wants to do (like be a good writer, which you clearly are).

    i’m married. i have kids. and i’ve read your stuff and don’t feel like there is something you’re missing. you do what writers do; you write what you know. thank you for it.

    • Thank YOU, Amy!

      It’s definitely hard to let certain comments go–sometimes because it triggers a sensitive issue or something we’re insecure about, and sometimes because we feel like the commenter is way off and we want to defend ourselves.

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