Recently, as part of an improve-your-writing challenge, I asked for feedback on my writing. A few brave souls trusted that I meant it (I did) and offered some. Kudos to you for your bravery. And thank you.
To me, feedback is like telling someone they have spinach in their teeth. It might be awkward, but it helps them avoid future embarrassment. I believe you should ask a person if they want feedback before offering it (unless they ask you for it). And I believe feedback and criticism are two very different things. It's not feedback if you are telling them about something you don't like that they have no way to fix. It's not feedback if it's meant to hurt or tease or make you look better than them.
One thing that a couple of people told me was that I seem much happier in person than I come across in my writing. That my writing seems darker than I really am.
Being the introspective person that I am, I thought about this. Is it true? Am I misrepresenting myself in my writing? Am I misrepresenting myself in person? Why don't these two personas align?
Like most things in life, it's complicated.
While I would like to be incredibly genuine at all times, sometimes I still put on a happy face when I'm out. Not as much as I used to. Not to people I trust. Usually just in passing or with people I don't really know. Or if I'm not up to talking about what's bothering me.
And then there's the fact that if I'm outside of my house, I'm probably feeling better. If I feel better then I'm happier. It's that simple.
Plus, being with people, especially certain people, makes me happier, too.
I can also be more intimate in my writing than I can in everyday situations. There just aren't that many opportunities to sit and chat for hours with a friend. Privately so I can get it all out without worrying about being judged or others overhearing. Writing serves that purpose for me. Writing is very intimate. I can say what I feel without anyone else's emotions coloring it. And things come out in my writing that I might not have known about myself, that I might not have even known I was feeling.
When I don't feel well I stay home. I stay in my room. Just me and my computer. That leaves more writing time. When I feel well I am out and about and don't have as much time (or need) to write.
I also feel a need to capture the dark times. For me and for others. It's so difficult to communicate those feelings to others. It's difficult to remember them when they pass. But it's important to try, if only so others know they are not alone.
All of that said, I know my writing has been darker for a long period of time (until maybe the last week or two). I have been in a darker place. One that won't break. But even in the midst of this I don't feel sad most of the time. People sometimes think that because I write about dark feelings I am sad. That's not always the case. I have sad moments and happy moments, just like everyone else. Some are just longer than others. I don't think my life is horrible or tragic. I also don't think it's peaches and cream.
Realizing that my writing has been dark, I have asked myself if I should write more positively anyway -- in spite of how I feel. No one has asked me to do this. But some people do miss my positivity. (It didn't feel like criticism, just that the other me was missed.) Maybe my dark writing will drive people away.
Trust me. I have thought about this a lot.
And this is my conclusion. I will watch for this in my life. I will watch for more positive things. I will look for happy. And I will make it a point to try to write when I am in a better place.
But I won't fake it. As much as I love having other people read my writing, it's not really for you. It's for me. If it is meeting your needs and not mine, then it's just not worth it to me anymore.
And that's another thing that's beautiful about feedback. You can examine it, weigh it, and decide what you want to do with it. Implement all, some, or none of it. Without this freedom it loses it's power.