Saturday, March 14, 2015

Quick Thoughts - Family, Identity, and Writing

I'm going to dish on some secrets, 'kay? Not that I mean this blog to be a constant confessional, but I was thinking about my writing and my writing "persona" as opposed to me as a person as opposed to the my work and public life "persona." Firstly, I feel like I keep a lot from my family. Likely this is something that many people deal with, but sometimes I feel very strange about it. After all, I hear about people who are very close to their parents and siblings and who spend all their time with extended family, having this very close-knit support that is always there for them. And while I feel my family is there for me if I was ever in trouble or needed something, I'm just not incredibly close to any of them.

I feel weird about that, but I suppose I've never felt all that similar to my family. We're just not the most similar of people (or perhaps we are and my fear of seeing them in me makes me want to keep them distant because I don't want to be similar to them but maybe I am but anyway). But we have fairly different interests. No one except my Mom reads in my family, first and foremost. So writing has always been something that, while kind of encouraged, never really got any sort of attention. I'm secure knowing that most of my family would never pick up a book that I wrote. Which is both freeing and strange. Freeing because I don't really have to think about what they might think of me for writing anything. It's like there's this completely different me than the one that shows up for holidays that can exist in my writing and I don't have to be afraid of what they think of the me that is my stories.

It's strange, though, because the me that shows up and calls and interacts with my family is probably less the "real" me than the one in my writing. The "real" me I'd call the me when I'm with just my partner, at home, with no pressure to perform. But the "real" me is much closer to the me as a writer than it is to the me when I'm interacting with my family (or at work, or many places I don't feel completely safe at). It's in my writing (as a writer?) that I can let go a bit more, that I can be more honest, that I can show something of myself that otherwise I feel has to be restrained. And while I really have no reason to think that my family would treat me all that differently, I'm still not out to them. Which I feel quite bad about, but I'm at my core a coward and fear all sorts of things. Which only contributes to bi-erasure and it's so strange that I'm more comfortable talking about this on this blog that anyone can see than I am with my family. But as I'm pretty sure my family won't actually see this, it feels (perhaps falsely) safer. Again, probably not a rare occurrence.

But my writing. I've heard it said by writers that you have to write as if your family is dead. That you have to disregard the part of you that doesn't want to embarrass or put something out there that would make them uncomfortable (M/M erotica, for instance, I'm sure would not go over great with my family, and yet I write it). Certainly there is a part of me that almost wants to be discovered. That puts this out there so that I don't actually have to say anything to my family directly, that hopes they'll find out and it will all be okay, and if it isn't that they'll just pretend they didn't see it and we can all just keep pretending. Which, again, is probably shitty of me. They should hear who I am from me and not from the vast internets. They shouldn't be surprised or blindsided by it. I understand that.

So yeah, identity is a strange thing sometimes. As are families. I just always feel somehow deficient when it comes to interacting with my family. Like most of what I do is hide and deflect when it's not like my family has ever been terrible. They've always been decent and kind and as supportive as they could be. I don't know when exactly I started pulling away. Middle school? High school? Definitely once I went away to college and started writing more seriously more and more of me went there and never made it to where my family would see. And I'm probably just afraid of things changing, afraid because I'm not sure how they would take not only who I am, but that I've been hiding it from them for so long.

But this quick thought is starting to get a bit long, so I think I'll try to wrap this up. I guess what I'm struggling with are the various identities that, as a writer, get juggled. How to be both sure of myself and scared? How to be proud of who I am and just hide it from those I'm supposed to be close to? How to balance all these different versions of me running about and which, if any, have any claim at being "real"? Probably there are no easy answers (possible there are no answers at all). Anyway, here I am, talking into the void of the internet. Perhaps this is just therapy for me. Thanks for reading, in any event.

All the best,

Charles Payseur

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