Tag Archives: non-fiction

On Being a Private Person Who Writes (and publishes) Non-fiction

Americna WWI Soldier Diary Pages

My writing life began in private journals and remained there for years, until I was well into my 20s. I never considered sharing anything I wrote until one day, while I was working on a prose poem, the writing seemed to lift off the pages of my journal. There was a larger force creating my words alongside me and the words seemed intended not for me alone, but for some kind of audience. I was the one typing, yes, but what I was writing didn’t feel solely “mine” anymore.

But sending out my private words to the world was another matter altogether. Going public was terrifying. When I published my first piece about my relationship with my mother, vulnerability thrummed inside me.

Children of spies are never supposed to talk

This was almost 20 years ago. Since then, I’ve published more family pieces, some about what it was like growing up with a CIA dad, which added another dimension of fear because children of spies are never supposed to talk about anything too private or secret. We are supposed to keep the BIG secret forever. I’ve experienced what it’s like to liberate myself from this silence, still, whenever I publish something, I feel the old spy kid fear. And once the piece comes out, my perfectionist side comes into play and I wonder, Could I have said it better? Did I get it right? It doesn’t matter how much I’ve edited or researched, sharing my work is daunting on so many levels.

Sending words out into the world is also difficult because writing has the power to change the world. Its effects can ripple out far beyond the writer and her initial creative impulse, which of course, is the point.

The bottom line is that it’s scary to tell something alive and true.

Over time, I’ve learned to take up space and to voice myself. Each time I write an article or blog post, the girl I once was worries. I tell her I understand – it is scary to tell something that feels alive and true. But it’s also great.