How My Writing Became Dangerous

This is 31 Conversations From the Front Porch Day 25 – How my writing became dangerous… you can read the rest of this series here.

31 conversations from the front porch with jkmcguire

Day 22: You Never Can Tell

I started writing on my first blog in 2008. It was nothing much important or even beautiful. And then I got my heartbroken  – which makes for the perfect song lyrics or words to spin and I spent a bit of time crafting stories and discovering photography while walking the path. I consider 2009 when my real blog began. I found pieces from my life to share in that online space. I also discovered Ann Voskamp, started counting gratitude, writing stories about that gratitude chasing, and linking up those posts to her site. From those linkups some folks found me and beyond my mom and another dear friend… people actually started to read the darn thing.

Then those readers started gathering me up to write for a few other sites or contribute a few photos and I found online spaces where I could hangout, create, craft, and discover my voice.

It was a good time. It was a healing process. It was a vitally important part of the woman I am becoming.

It was the innocent, holy days of writing prayers and finding God in dew drops, sleeping bees, and seasons’ changes.

Sometimes I really miss the good ole’ days  But then eventually I started to share links to my articles on my social media profiles.

And people extended from my life began to read where I was wandering and what I was wondering and how I was processing where my life had been up to that point.

And then one day a person I knew figured out how to friend request… and the rest as they say is history.

No longer was it just about sharing pictures, and stories and lessons learned on the path.

writing space dangerous jkmcguire

With one click my writing haven became the most dangerous place in my life. I was vulnerable. I was exposed. I was honest. And there wasn’t one damn thing any of the critics could do about it.

The silence and solitude and peaceful whispers were infiltrated with the assumptions and harassment of people who believed that they had a right to me.

People who believed that what I wrote – was all about them somehow. They had a right to my stories and in that rightness – they were bound and determined to make sure I was 1. held accountable and 2. that they have the opportunity to set the record straight.

I was quickly flooded over.

  • What had been Julia Cameron and I on a path of writing discovery and morning pages… was now food for the information whores.
  • What had been Gerald May and I camping in the wilderness with words and eyes open…. became another family event they wanted documented for their viewing & commenting pleasure.
  • What had been John Eldredge and I pressing through our church and family hurt to rescue our broken, battered hearts… became a pushing, shoving match of who was going to fix this hurt for us.
  • What had been Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, and I uncovering the holiness of prayer and silence and solitude and other spiritual disciplines…. became a lack of church attendance, suspicious behaviors, and an inability to get over our pain (We were labeled, “Stuck”).
  • What had been Henry Cloud and I discovering boundaries and a right to personal space & separateness…. became a continual barrage of bombs thrown over blog fences.
  • What had been Ann Voskamp and I pressing into the sacredness of life as we chased gratitude from sunrise to sunset…. became a searching the gratitude lists for names and events and encounters that brought glory to their own names.
  • What had been a safe place for all those teachers I had joyfully uncovered and encountered, what had been a safe place for me to vulnerably open my heart and stories and prayers to the world….was now a place where others came to gather the information they never had enough balls to ask to my face, to sift through my life for the nuggets of truth they could use to harm and disarm me.

And that is exactly what they tried to do… USE.

My blog became another piece in a very twisted, immature game of “I am right about you.”

writing warning label jkmcguire

After reading what I really thought about experiences I had been through…
After slamming full force into my voice instead of my cooperative silence…
there was hurt and anger and then reacting.

There were passive-aggressive jabs, and even aggressive messages with demands like:  “I read this on your site and I want to know…. I demand to know….I have a right to know… I know for a fact _____ never happened or _______ was never said. You are being unforgiving. You are holding grudges. You are jealous. You are bitter. You need to learn how to ….. You are wrong about the church…. You are hiding behind blog pages and Facebook updates. You lean too far left or too far right. YOU. YOU. Just shut up already.”

There was name calling. Everyone was a victim. They shouted their rights to be heard.

Their criticism and anger flooded into my creative space. Their reactions tainted my prayers and it tainted my words. I would often clam up, obsess, worry and fear what types of reactions would come next. That space where I had been free to be me – where I uncovered my stories and my lifeline – weaving together my present brokenness with my past was being violated with dirty feet trampling everywhere,

They were grabbing at it and slamming it back because of their fear of being exposed. They were hurtful, angry, and mean.

So I blocked them. And I blocked anyone remotely attached to them. I refused to be seen or let them see me.
Every chance I got – I refused to allow them to swamp my life with their drama and shaming anymore.

writing is dangerous

What I learned in that experience is that writing is dangerous.

  • On one hand people have to earn the right to hear your story.
  • On the other hand I write publicly.
  • On one hand people have to prove they are trustworthy enough to engage your heart.
  • On the other hand I write publicly.
  • On one hand people have to show that they can handle your life – and those you love with decency, compassion, mercy and understanding.
  • On the other hand I write publicly.

And when you write publicly – people will often not like it.

I think when we live bogged down by fear, when we are shackled beneath our shame, when we live with the anxiety of being exposed we will react violently and aggressively at any situation or person who threatens to reveal the truth about us. The truth that we are not as smart, wealthy, beautiful, loving, kind, righteous, godly, or perfect as we would have everyone believe about us.

We will hate those who write, create, and bravely share their truth when we feel that they are threatening to unearth our shame-filled places.

We will see ourselves in every tale they tell.
We will think they are writing about us at every turn.

shame fear of being unmasked jkmcguire

When you are covered in shame – when it binds you and holds you tightly – you live with a constant fear of being unmasked.

When you are covered in shame – you resent people who are brave. You resent their joy. You resent the things & people that bring them joy.

Nothing is more vulnerable then writing, speaking, or sharing your stories. And nothing is more nail biting then thinking that someone you haven’t treated so well – now has a blog, or a book deal, or a story to tell publicly that might include the truth of how you have touched or harmed their life.

Someone who has taken a pen to the page – may not write as warmly about you as you would have liked them to because the truth is – you did not love them as you should or could have.

But then again – you never can tell.

A writer may not even be thinking about you… let alone writing about it.

anne lamott quote write anyways

Exercises For Your Own Front Porch Conversations

The Anne Lamott quote above is perhaps my most favorite quote about writing. If you have not read her book on the writing life called “Bird by Bird” – I highly recommend it.

In the meantime, today is Sunday. What can you do today (just one thing) to shed a bit more of your shame? What is one story you can tell – to someone you can trust with your story – that you have been hiding and living beneath? If you do not have a safe space to share that deep shame – write it out and send me an email via my contact page. I would cherish a moment in your shoes. #writeanyways #beasafeperson #safeplaces

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