Ugh, What Have I Made Here?

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[Image: open page in a book to a chapter entitled, “We Are Not the Poem” with dark shadow splotches on it].


CW: brief mention of addiction/abuse

Why does everything have to be so productive? Productive as in produce, as in make rather than do. We don’t create to create, we create to make, to come up with a product. In the end, it isn’t about the process at all. It’s about the final product. That’s where my mind is always at—product. How do I dismantle this way of thinking? How do I undo it? Even while writing this, I’m thinking it could be a blog post or an entry for a zine. It’s all about making rather than doing and it’s all about putting on display. That is what the Internet has given us, a tool where we can put everything on display. That’s neither inherently good or bad. It is what it is. It all depends on how we use it. On the one hand, it’s incredible that almost anyone can share anything. Marginalized voices can be amplified like never before. I can publish zines and blog posts and poems without going through some publishing company and getting their sanctioned approval. There’s opportunity in that. It’s powerful.

On the other hand, however, this seems to add a degree of pressure to turn every pastime you enjoy into something productive, every hobby into a side hustle, everything you create into a product to be consumed.

Just because I can share doesn’t always mean that I should. We all have to map out our own boundaries about what to share and what to keep private online. The technology is still pretty new so we often have to learn by the process of trial and error. We may accidentally violate our own boundaries and the subsequent discomfort from that teaches us about where they actually are.

Everyone has different boundaries and what may look like oversharing to some may not be even scratching the surface for others. Take, for example, some of my trauma. I grew up with a father who abused drugs, alcohol, and me and my family. I both write about this all the time and avoid ever writing about it. I write around it. I write about how it shaped me, what it means for me as a person today. I write about the pain I carry. I don’t write about the details of what happened.

While I may indulge certain facts, certain facets of my identity and life online in great detail, I too have boundaries, things I will not touch. I have thought before that I should write about what I experienced as a way to support other survivors, but there’s a much stronger side of me that says, “No, this is mine. This is personal, private. This will not go on display for the world to pick apart”. I would not be able to survive having my story scrutinized by an audience, would not be able to take people’s empathy or criticism, from, “I’m so sorry that happened to you” to “Why didn’t you do this or that?” It would be too much. No, it is mine. I get to keep it and work through it on my own. Maybe one day I will share if I feel ready, when it is no longer haunting me, when I could take the empathy, criticism, the questioning, the eyes. I need to be able to stand up to the eyes, to hold my ground, to know I will be okay no matter what they do.

That’s how I draw my boundaries. That’s how I know whether or not it is okay to share something. It’s about whether I can do so safely.

Being able to share and levelling the playing field around sharing is powerful. It’s a powerful world- and life-changing tool we as a generation have been given and have made. I’m grateful to be alive at a time where I can speak to my experiences as someone other than a white cishet man and there is the potential that someone will listen. I am in awe of that but I’m also actively learning about how to use rather than abuse it. It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that everything I create must be productive and that all of me must be put on display to be consumed by an audience. This is the downside of social media, and, you know, capitalism: you can share but that doesn’t always mean that you should, that you have to. Artists are not creative machines that exist for the sole purpose of production.

It’s 2019 and I’m stumbling around over here trying to cobble together some sort of career as a writer and that means sharing things online. In 2019, it has to. That’s the landscape. I’m learning about my boundaries and how to respect them. I’m slowly, slowly, slowly figuring out what I need to do. I’m letting myself evolve. I’m alive in 2019 and sometimes it feels like the world is ending and I’m trying to make a career for myself in a field with no direct path and everything is chaos and welcome to being alive, I guess.

I’m trying to teach myself to write in order to write, not just to make writing.

I’m learning and I’m failing. Is this piece something I should share? Is it good enough? It came from a free-write. It’s rambly. It’s trying to express multiple things at once and not necessarily successfully. Does that matter? Not everything you do has to be something you make, not everything you make has to be good, and sometimes you can produce without making a final product. Produce what, more questions? I’m not sure.

Maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about, very likely I don’t, and this is where I am writing from. Often writing to make and sometimes writing to write.