When I taught Comp I, I was always surprised by how many students deemed my class unnecessary. They would scoff and say, “I never write except when I have a paper.” But they do – we all do. We write tweets and Instagram captions and Facebook updates that are way too long. We write emails to customer service, texts to friends, and DMs asking if someone is up. We are constantly reading and writing. Sometimes we need to find a balance.
Writing Holds Power
Now, more than ever, writing holds so much power. Whether you’re a politician or just a regular Jane, the words we put out into the world hit with tremendous impact. And sometimes, that impact comes with a price.
After the events at our nation’s capital, it seemed everyone in my life on every social media network had something to say. As our feeds to be an echo chamber of our own ideals, my Instagram and Twitter seemed to echo what I myself was feeling. It wasn’t until I logged onto Facebook that I ran into trouble.
The Balance of My Experiences
When my novel Inconvenient Daughter hit shelves, I was terrified. While it wasn’t necessarily my story, one couldn’t deny the similarities between the main character, Rown, and myself. Not only was she a transracial adoptee raised on Long Island, but she also had my penchant for getting into trouble, love of 90s music, and fantastic ability to pick the wrong guy.
I was worried that people would see me differently. That the book would somehow cop to something I’d tried to hide. Most importantly, though, I thought it would cost me my relationship with my mother. Thankfully, my mother’s only comment was the book had too many curse words, but I did notice I was missing Christmas cards from several family members this year.
I find myself in the same predicament now: what will my words cost me in the wake of our country’s reckoning?
The Generation Gap
My Instagram and Twitter feeds are populated by people who either share my lived experience or who possess the ability to empathize with it. Unfortunately, my Facebook feed is filled with the thoughts and opinions of those from the “walk it off” generation. Broke your arm? Walk it off. Feeling sad? Walk it off. Having crushing anxiety and hopelessness at the cataclysmic destruction of all you once had faith in? Walk. It. Off.
I sat before my computer for what seemed like a long time – wondering if these statuses deserved a response. Wondering if it was worth the emotional labor to drop the knowledge so many seemed to be desperately in need of. Wondering if I shared my thoughts, my fears, my truth if it would cost friendships, relationships with family members, or cause problems at work.
One of the things no one tells you about when it comes to writing is that once you put it out in the world it no longer belongs to you. Writing is a wish and a hope we send into the hands of the reader. And while once what we write enters the world – whether it’s a tweet or an essay – no longer belongs to us, the writer is always the one who pays the price. And so I closed my computer, for I wasn’t sure if I was ready to pay the balance just yet.
LAUREN J. SHARKEY is a writer, teacher, and transracial adoptee. Inconvenient Daughter is her debut novel, and loosely based on her experience as a Korean adoptee. You can follow her at ljsharks.com, and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @theljsharks.