Looking Back, Looking Forward

As I’ve been sprucing up my blog, I went back to my first posts on this site in 2013, as well as posts I’ve kept from my original writing blog which I began in December of 2011. Like returning to an old journal, it’s wonderful in many ways to see how my opinions, knowledge, and experiences have changed over time. I love reading things like, “While I like a little bit of creepy, I’m honestly not a big horror story fan and I don’t see this as developing into a major trend for me,” or, “I don’t know that reviewing books is going to become a regular thing for me,” while basking in the glorious irony of those predictions. Unlike reading a journal, however, a part of me cringes in wary anticipation at what I might best describe as my lack of perfectness.

Story time. One Sunday a month, LDS church members fast for two consecutive meals, and the pulpit is left open for anyone in the congregation to come up and share their testimonies of the Gospel during the typical sacrament meeting block. For much of my life, I’ve wondered how so many people seem comfortable sharing something so personal as their testimonies to anyone and everyone within listening range of the microphone. Some people share simple affirmations of belief. Others share experiences where they’ve seen the Lord’s hand in their lives. I participate in publicly sharing my Gospel testimony in this way from time to time (though not often, because I still find it a bit intimidating). I’ve also gleaned a lot of wisdom, empathy, and spiritual strength from others who were brave enough to walk up and share the things that were in their hearts, having absolutely no idea where they were going with this or that thought. As testimony-sharing is typically spontaneous rather than a prepared talk, every once in a while someone will share a story or a thought that feels awkward, perhaps striking more at emotions or personal agendas than spiritually uplifting insights.

One thing I find challenging about blogging is sharing my thoughts in a public space. Both in writing panels and on the internet, I’ve said my share of weird things I wish I’d either been able to explain better in the moment or not expressed at all. Heck, I’ve said some weird things while teaching sundayschool lessons, too. Personal thoughts and experiences can be valuable, both to encourage others, and in the odd chance it might give someone insight or validation. It can also be awkward trying to dissect or explain something for the first time that is both important to you and that, in some ways, you really know nothing about yet.

I have a rather grand fear, you see, of trying to discuss things that are interesting and important to me, but that I don’t yet know how to explain beyond the best of my present abilities. Sharing thoughts in a public forum isn’t like sharing thoughts in a personal journal. The things we say out loud, so to speak, have an instant impact on other people. They can hurt, confuse, or mislead. They can stir up contention. They can expose our weaknesses or ignorance. They can also be rejected or ridiculed. Some people may take the things we say so seriously that they feel betrayed when we later change our minds. Sometimes, as our opinions evolve, we can even feel awkward that we ever thought this or that fairly benign detail was the way things worked. Sharing our thoughts out loud is, therefore, a risk.

Finding the most clear and effective way to express what we mean the way we mean it takes practice. This entails making mistakes, sometimes lots of mistakes; growing a thick skin; and, occasionally, amending that weird thing we said or wrote the way we would any manuscript in progress. People aren’t typically born to an opinion, expression, or skill that doesn’t seem to transform over time.

It occurs to me, then, that I’ll never arrive at a completely fixed, definitive view on things like being LDS and writing horror, or plotting vs. discovery writing. My views on life, culture, and the writing process will be re-written again and again. Comprehending this continual shifting of mentality makes the prospect of blogging about it a little less intimidating, I think, because I’m pretty sure I’ll keep growing into and out of much awkwardness until the day I die.

Looking ahead, I’d like to say I don’t know that I’ll be blogging a lot more than two-to-six times a month, or that I’ll ever stop burying my “crazy bold” posts under lots of benign book reviews and announcements about my next horror story WIP as quickly as possible. But I do hope I look back on this post one day with a rather amused expression and chuckle at how beautifully things have changed.