What Do We Share?

by Mr. Sheehy

One of the things I find most interesting about the explosion of blogging is watching the world discover the highly personal nature of writing. Of course, what they’re noticing is the genuine writing, because the bickering exchanges and angry spats that sprout like weeds on comments and letters to the editor are more sophomoric verbal sparring than genuine attempts to communicate. Those are a continent away from personal.

Genuine writing (and good writing) communicates a piece of the writer’s heart. “Here,” she says. “This word I give you – it’s my best, a creation from the thoughts and feelings that swirl inside me, and I’d like you to see it.” And in sharing it, the writer makes herself vulnerable, no matter what the format or medium is.

Obviously I would not claim that writing from the heart is all good – it takes a mixture of skill and sentiment, mind and heart to make a truly great product. But on blogs I see people releasing their hearts in an attempt to make good writing, and sometimes the result is broken hearts. I stumbled across Anousheh Ansari’s blog from space yesterday and found it interesting to hear her frustration and disappointment at reading the negative feedback posted on the comments to her articles. She had exposed herself and when some readers rejected her, it stung – badly. I hear in her words the same broken tone I heard in creative writing class in college, when a student had a poem criticized but the poem was too personal to face the criticism. Perhaps then it is unfortunate that she chose a blog as her medium. It probably wasn’t ready to share.

And the world is in an uproar about MySpace and our district is afraid of blogs and webposting, because it makes students vulnerable. Mostly they’re vulnerable when they ignore their Berenstain Bears guidelines about talking to strangers, but it seems to make them vulnerable because they’re trying to write well, and part of writing well is writing what is truly inside them. And we must be careful, I suppose, about what we share – but I’m not going to hide, and I’m not going to insinuate that my students should hide. Instead, I’m going to thrive in this place where people are interested in writing and discovering what makes good writing. I’ll use the same reminders Barbara Ganley uses, telling students to keep “off-blog that which is either private or not yet ready for the eyes of the world,” and encouraging students to share everything that is ready.