I’ve been writing for… fuck, as long as I can remember. I still have old notebooks and journals from when I was a child (and, now parenting a child of a similar age, I am living the mortification of letting her read them when she asks and cringing at the words of my younger self. Yikes.)
Writing is the way I enter the world. It is the way that I grasp and struggle with thoughts and ideas, the way that I process, the way that I expel emotion and thought. I also, predominantly, write non-fiction, which means that my stories tend to be both true and about people that live and exist in the world.
I write. I don’t know if this makes me a writer or not; I feel like the identity of “writer” is one that I struggle with. “Writer” implies something more concrete to me than what I am and what I do. I write because I breathe; I don’t know of any other way to be. Doesn’t necessarily mean it’s any good, or that I could ever make a living off of it, but it’s what I do.
The ethics of non-fiction writing get tricky. Everyone has to define them for themselves, but my personal ethics state that I inform someone if I’ve written something in which their presence in my life or in my mind contributed, even if they are not identifiable. If they are identifiable in any regard, I get their consent before publicly posting it.
And god, I hate those conversations.
Because I assume that my writing about someone else is inconvenient. It’s annoying or frustrating or silly or overkill or…something. I don’t even know if I know. I picture people on the other end of that conversation rolling their eyes and going, “God, not again,” and then grudgingly reading through it, and responding with, “why did you think I would care?”
Heyyyyyyy insecurities! What the actual fuck?
I remember the few times people have written something about me, and sent me a link to it. I read it. I read it again. I bookmarked the link and read it periodically throughout the week. I was flattered and floored that someone took the time to knit together eloquent words and language to describe something that had happened with me.
Not inconvenient. Not annoying. Not… any of the things I feel afraid that I am when I send a message giving a heads up. It’s usually fucking hot, and I’m groaning by the end of it, and feel…exuberant and excited and want to tell everyone, “Oh my god, this person wrote this thing about me!” (I don’t, but I get really giddy.)
Recently (in the past couple months), I have been writing so much erotica. So much. Before this, I hardly wrote any. It never came out right- if felt awkward and clinical and not at all sexy. Writing erotica used to feel like a race in my head, to see how much I could get out before I dissolved into a mess of shame and had to save the document in an obscure folder and hopefully never look at it again.
But with more erotic writing, I’ve had to have more and more heads-up conversations (it should probably be noted that these happen with people I know, not strangers. I’m not messaging random people to tell them my fantasies. My brain doesn’t work like that, first of all, and second, ew. That’s gross.). And even though I know the place I’m coming from in why I do this, it also feels… attention-grabby. “Hey I wrote this thing about you; you should go read it.” feels like fishing for compliments that I can’t accept anyway. Cause, like, what is it I think someone is going to say? “Wow, thanks for the heads up but you’re kind of shitty at writing and that was not at all hot that you were thinking about me and fucking yourself?” Pretty unlikely; it’s probably going to be something along the lines of, “damn, thank you, that was hot, etc.” But they’re just being…polite. Or something.
I assume that I only exist in the moment (and sometimes, not even then). I assume that I am not on someone’s mind unless I am in front of them (despite many assurances to the contrary). So it feels… presumptive… to tell someone they are on my mind when I am fairly certain I am not on theirs (actively working on this). It feels… invasive, somehow, to the rest of a person’s life to hold a piece of them in my words. Don’t ask me why. This is something I am butting up against and, like all things, I kind of have to ram my head against the brick wall for a minute until I look around and see that there’s a door right beside me.
I am consciously working to not begin every “heads up” conversation with “Sorry to bother you, but…” I don’t know why I assume my sexual desire is inconvenient for other people. I find myself blurting out something remarkably blunt, and then wondering from where I am getting the energy to take up this much space in my skin (and trying not to panic that I did the scary thing).
Something significant has shifted in me, and I’m trying to parse out exactly what that is. Because it used to be that putting anything I wrote out into the world was terrifying. But now, that’s not so scary. Now, it’s owning the fact that I fuck myself on a regular basis, thinking about people that I know, and sometimes I write about it. And more often than not, I am trying to put it out there because I need to learn how to have these conversations. It’s a way of claiming my own capacity for desire. I have to be willing to be inconvenient to understand that I am not.
The tapes we play, over and over in our heads don’t necessarily change because we tell them they should. They change because we change our habits and patterns and rework the neural networks to change association. It takes time and repetition. And I’m getting there, slowly. I am writing erotica, and don’t feel like I’m racing with crippling shame that makes me feel nauseated. I still send heads up messages, even when my insecurities are telling me that that’s a REALLY BAD IDEA because taking up space is inconvenient.
This isn’t sexy. Insecurities don’t feel sexy; they feel gross and needy and not particularly fun. But I am remembering that I am more than my insecurities. I am more than the things I am afraid of (which are nebulous and unrealistic and really, kind of absurd). You don’t have to soothe my insecurities. You don’t have to do anything, except let me be a messy, weird, perfectionist with ridiculous standards.
…and maybe let me send you erotica sometimes.