I write a lot. Sometimes it depends on the day. I like to write but I don’t like to read what I have written. I like to read poems out loud so I can hear the way the words waltz off my tongue and dance on my eardrums.
Because of this, I like to participate in creative writing classes. I took one in high school and I’m currently enrolled in one at college. My professor, a woman whose blog I enjoy very much and whose personality reminds me of a Lemonhead, has reiterated the fact that she wants to read pieces that demonstrate events in our lives where we have felt vulnerable. She has a gentle voice and a laugh that reminds me of a wind chime when a sudden summer breeze appears, but her words leave a sour taste in my mouth (Lemonhead? Get it?).
I’m not a vulnerable person. I say what I think but I don’t often give enough details for anyone to discover how I feel. I like blogging because I can do exactly that — even my poem from a few days ago was evidence that I do struggle with the future and who I’m going to become but I didn’t really say how I was feeling about the stanzas that I typed. You, oh online reader who stares at these words on the screen, I bet you didn’t even know that I’m very jealous of one of my roommates. And even though I’ve admitted that just now, you don’t know why I’m jealous and I’m not about to tell you. I don’t tell people how I feel. It is a shortcoming of mine and one that I’m not about to change overnight for this class.
However, in addition to vulnerability, my professor has asked that we also consider our audience and the concept of shock value vs. writing to offend someone. Personally, I like shock value. I think reality is quite shocking. I can say for sure that you would be shocked about the types of thoughts that run through my head when I’m put into compromising situations. Writing to offend, though? I don’t do that as often. I try not to. I will express my opinions and I do like to debate — I wouldn’t voluntarily shoot down your argument and not allow you to reply in kind, nor do I try to argue anything with an ignorant opinion.
For my professor, who I very much admire, I will reveal a layer of vulnerability. However, I refuse to edit the “shock value” for the audience of my writing.
Reality cannot be defined by the person who watches it unfold. My experiences do not change because a certain elements of those situations offend someone. If I write the word “damn” in a memoir because that is what actually slipped from my mouth when I tore my ACL (to clarify, not a real example), then I write it so that the audience can visualize what actually happened, understand the intensity of the injury, and realize the extent of the pain that I felt. I’m not going to sugarcoat my version of life if someone else doesn’t like it.
Creative writing is an art. Art was made to be enjoyed and interpreted differently by all who gaze upon it; or in this case, whosoever reads it. I won’t justify changing my memories so that an editor can have a certain interpretation that I want them to have. If I want my editor to think that so-and-so is hideous, then I can describe in detail every single imperfection that has the misfortune of gracing such a troll-ish face. Such exaggeration doesn’t make it true to life, though.
Vulnerability will have to come from moments in my past. Those memories will lost their authenticity as soon as I start modifying descriptions and force them into a mold to make it easier for the audience to swallow. I hate it. I hate every single part of the idea of changing myself for someone else.
So, my dear professor, I will give you vulnerability. But I refuse, I will NOT change the language, the emotion or the circumstances so that you like it. You don’t have to like it. In fact, I would prefer that you didn’t.
Let me write for you.