“I think writers are the most narcissistic people. Well, I mustn’t say this, I like many of them, a great many of my friends are writers.” –Sylvia Plath
While some people view Plath as a tragic case of depression and madness, I find her fascinating, and not surprisingly, highly relatable. The first time I read “The Bell Jar” I felt like I had to immediately start reading it again, both relieved and slightly spooked that someone could speak so directly to my own emotions and write about them so articulately.
She was authentic, she was unapologetic, she was the type of writer that I want to be, and lately I feel I’ve been slipping away from that for some reason.
“I write only because there is a voice within me that will not be still.”
I’m overly aware of the fact that many people think blogging is selfish and very “me, me, me” all the time. In some ways, of course it is. It’s something I do to express myself, a place where I can write about whatever it is I want to write about with no rules or regulations.
But just as I tell myself that, I simultaneously find myself getting caught up in an attachment to results and reaction. I question myself on a regular basis based solely on the fact that I see so many other people “making it big” who seem to recycle the same ideas in a way that can be described as average at best.
I don’t say that in a narcissistic way, but at times I simply want to throw up my hands and say, “Hey, Internet. WTF? What do they have that I don’t have?”
It’s not just about writing any more, it’s about marketing, something I’m not comfortable with at all. The fast-paced world of Twitter and blogging often feels like a bunch of people standing in a crowded room screaming to be heard, and quite frankly, I don’t have the energy to keep up and wonder, “What’s the point?”
“Everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
I like writing humorous things, but when I start writing about something more personal again I feel overwhelmed and like I’m leaving something out, which to me means I leave room for misunderstanding or assumption to sneak it.
I worry that someone will read it the wrong way or cast an inaccurate judgment. I edit myself to appear a little less vulnerable than I feel in real life. I default to something more safe.
This is very un-Plath-like, and to be honest, very un-Abby-like as well. And while I know that this quarterly rant of mine about my own insecurity is ironically narcissistic in and of itself and of little to no interest to you, maybe you can relate.
Maybe you’ve found yourself slipping back into “safe” mode with whatever it is that you do instead of remembering that in order to have your voice heard, you have to stay true to your authentic voice.
“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.”
Plath didn’t worry about Tweeting out her work or keeping up with what everyone else was doing, and she sure as hell didn’t worry about whether or not anyone approved of her writing. She wrote “simply because there was a voice within her that would not be still.”
That’s artistic, not narcissistic, and some damn good advice.
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And don’t worry. My next post is lighter and channels Martha Stewart…lord help us all.
LOVE Sylvia Plath. And I think that true artists do what they do because they have to. Of course there are always going to be people who are more popular, and writing drivel. I say never edit or worry about what people out here are thinking. Write whatever it is you need to write. Those that matter will appreciate it, and those that don’t will fall by the wayside.
I am lucky in that my blog is something I need to do as an outlet. I don’t have any other social networking pages and never will. That makes it easier ’cause I don’t care who I alienate or piss off in the process. I can just write whatever is real today, to my whole ten readers. 🙂
It may not mean anything but this is my favorite blog. You write from the heart and you don’t seem to pull punches, even if in fact you are editing. It doesn’t FEEL like you’re editing. And that might be what really matters in the long run.
I’ve always liked your outlook on things and am so glad you’ve shared your blog with me, as you often remind me that I’m not alone in a lot of my thoughts and OCD things 😉 I mean that as a compliment, as you write so open and honestly.
Amen, amen amen: “She wrote ‘simply because there was a voice within her that would not be still.’”
And yes, I can relate. I second-guess myself constantly in my blog but I still go full-throttle, high-speed take it or leave it this is the way I write BUT I agonize over it constantly. Thank you for the reminder. I love this post.
Amen, sister friend. Write on.
Oh Abby you have just spoken to every single thing that is wrong with me lately. I feel myself being safe instead of writing away the voices and ideas in my head because I am scared of offending, pushing away or hurting the feelings of people I have lots of respect for. Authentically I am so much more but I cannot articulate it without fear of rejection.
Thank you for putting words to what I’ve struggling against …now if you could make it better?
This was a beautiful, honest and important post.
i totally agree with you about twitter. think it applies to the internets, as well though. it does exactly feel like a small room full of people screaming to be heard. and twitter is so fast paced. man!
i’ve changed my twitter usage a lot over the last month of so. there are people i interact with directly. those are the people i feel i’m targeting.
with my blog, i’m not trying to sell anything, besides myself. 🙂 so, i don’t feel the pressure of having to make money. i don’t know if that’s the difference for me. but, it’s what i’m sticking to! 🙂
I completely agree. Twitter is just a minor part of things, as there are a million and 12 different outlets most people are told they “should” be interacting on. I just have fun with most things, to be honest, and don’t take any of it too seriously. I’ve never made a penny off my blog and probably never will, so that’s one worry I don’t have! 🙂
LOVE this post, my friend.
You nailed it.
You helped, even if you don’t realize it 😉
My friend encouraged me to stop reading Plath – I was obsessed! I read everything about her & the old hubby I could get my hands on!
I find that in all Art the Maker must take such risks – putting oneself out there. Being so vulnerable. Feeling judged even.
Hell, look at my blog! I haven’t written for a year.I’m telling myself I want it to look perfect before I start again. Truth is I’m scared. I don’t want to sound pathetic and I don’t want to be glib.
No one expects you to be funny all the time. Although I would imagine you use humor in all situations. So do I. Last time during my little stay at the hospital for brains ( as I like to call it ) one of the people said “never lose your sense of humor”. It does help. But sometime it just covers up the real me.
Oh Sylvia! Where are you now. If we could only invite you over for a chat about making curtains and ask you how you did it. But then, we all know how it turned out in the end don’t we?
I find the people in the “brain hospitals” to be some of the most insightful and introspective people around, and that’s sound advice you were given. You should write. If we all waited until things were perfect, nothing would ever get done. Perfect is boring.
Abby, there are very few writers who are as fearless and honest in their work as Plath. You’ve set a very high bar for yourself, and that’s good. Most writers suffer the same doubts that you do. It’s easy to get caught up in “results,” but all we have control over is the work. I’ve started stretching and writing some more serious stuff over at She Writes. There are a lot of good writers over there and it’s a place to try stuff out that you might not want to do here. I’m also reading a great book called “Naked, Drunk & Writing” by Adair Lara. She writes that in creative non-fiction, “the personal is most common.” Keep at it, Abby.
Whoa! I’m not setting a Plath bar for myself, as that would be impossible. I just admire her talent and spirit, for better or for worse, and know that most writers go through these spells which is why even though I’m hinky about publishing things like this, I do anyway. “Naked, Drunk & Writing?” Sounds like my to-do list for the weekend 😉
I’m glad you wrote this piece. It’s good for writers to realize we’re all facing the same demons.
Abby, I think you’re a very honest writer. I’m sure you self-doubt and edit because of the issues you describe, but it’s also clearly because you care so much about your content, too.
you need to know, I don’t care if your funny or your serious, as long as you’re Abby. I did notice that lately your “voice” seemed a little less “Abby” and it’s sure good to hear you again. Keep writing, you have ardent followers who would stalk you across the blogosphere just to read your post. Consider me one of those.
When I create art, I find the best pieces are the ones where I feel nervous that I’m saying too much as I create it. I think that’s the key, giving until it hurts, writers and artists alike live on feeling and reaching inside for inspiration.
Have a lovely weekend, Abby.
Numbers really aren’t important to me, but it can be easy to get drawn back in if only because everyone else talks about it all the time. When I separate yourself from the noise, that’s when I feel most at peace and creative. Being an artist as you are, I’m sure you can relate.
Abby, Abby, Abby…I don’t want you to think I’m minimizing your feelings, because I totally relate to what you’re saying, and I know you weren’t fishing…but I am going to try to puff you up for a second…Ms. Blog of the Year, published author, local TV celebrity!
I found myself smiling the whole time I read this because: a.) I could identify and b.) from where me and my little blog sit, you are a success. I compare everything to me (I’m a narcissistic blogger too!) and you have many more readers than me. I haven’t and can’t do a statistical analysis on this, but you seem to have a really nice hit-to-follow ratio…people (including me!) find you and then tend to stick around for more. You’ve built something to be proud of here and I think it will only get bigger over time.
So I too think “WTF, internet?” many days. I seem to hit a particularly low point with my blog “results” angst about every 21-28 days, if you know what I mean. At those times, I generally need to back away from the internet. I’ve been wanting to write a post about this myself, but have been waiting until I’m in a better mood!
First, thanks for the kind words. I think what people don’t understand is that all the book stuff was me working my tail off–self-publishing, sending out stuff to the news, etc. and it’s not as if I sold a ton of copies or had people knocking on my door. I’m very proud of what I’ve done–don’t get me wrong!–but that doesn’t mean I don’t still wonder what the heck I’m doing most of the time. While I realize that sounds ungrateful and selfish, I’m anything but. The fact that people like you read and enjoy what I write makes me stupid happy and honestly, I don’t care if only 12 people ever read if they’re 12 people like you guys. It’s just that general insecurity that I think most creative people get. We do it for ourselves, but it’s still nice to have a community 😉
When I tell people my favorite writers there’s usually a cringe and a critique of “but they killed themselves or drank too much or were horrible people”. So what? Art is usually the offshoot of deep thinking associated with pain or desire or mental illness or just restlessness. Just because I love Oscar Wilde or Ernest Hemingway or Kurt Cobain doesn’t mean I’m going to hurt myself.
I know you edit. I do t. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you what ends up on blog, twitter, the facebook or emails represents 10% of what I wrote or thought.
I love your blog. It;s funny, interesting, and alway engaging. Plath thought deeply, and agonized over every word. Her artistic output was amazing.
Keep it coming, Abs.
You know we’re on the same wavelength, mainly the one that is directly connected to baseball.
I really wish great writers had twitter. Mark Twain, Plath, even Woody Allen should have a twitter account (he doesn’t). Mainly, I think I’d actually love to listen to their 140 quips.
But yes, I often have the “WTF internet!?” moments. This is why I’ll never get on board with pinterest or give “Eden Eats Everything” a facebook page. I don’t think blogging is selfish at all. I think some people are just putting boring stuff about themselves but its not “selfish”. And you, my dear, need to be a little selfish sometimes. We all do. Its basic survival.
On the note of “survival”, um, as much as I do like Plath, please, please, dont end up like her? I need Abby around to kick my ass.
Oh man. If Woody Allen had Twitter, I would be all about that. He’s genius. I actually love my blog FB page because people who “like” it are fun and interact a lot more than my friends and family on my personal FB page. I don’t use it for attention, but rather as another way to connect. You have a ton of followers and don’t really need to, as I think your blog and your personal FB page are really similar. I try and be a little “cleaner” for my family FB stuff 😉 Pinterest? You better not go to the other side. You’re my last anti-pinning friend…
Hmmm….I do think Plath cared very much what people thought about her writing, but I agree that she wrote because it “wouldn’t be still”.
I think you should consider the sort of attention people with average or sub-par writing skills are getting. Is it attention from the people you would want? Are their readers your readers? Probably not. Would you accept the free swag they receive? I doubt it. You, my dear friend, are not only a better writer, but a classier human being.
Oh totally, on all accounts. As for the attention, it’s not that I necessarily want that (and I don’t want anything free.) I guess it’s more a frustration that I know there are some great writers/bloggers out there that don’t get the attention they deserve for their talent when weirdos are out there with a cult-like following (not talking about myself here, mind you.) I would rather have a tiny little tribe of cool people–which I have–then an army of weirdos. Slightly off topic, but you’re kind of one of my blogging idols. You tell it like it is and don’t give a shit, yet you do it in a classy way. Rock on, sister!
I believe the world is a better place because of you’re being in it, my dear Abby. I love that you always seem to throw caution to the wind, say what’s on your mind, and not give a rat’s batooty what anyone thinks about it. Your writing should never have to have a filter, and you should never for one small second doubt yourself and your abilities. I think you’re a beautiful and brilliant writer 🙂
Yes but then she stuck her head in the oven. I do think her principles are worth admiring for sure. But I don’t think its good to compare apples to oranges because these things are different. Blogs need audiences. And Plath seemed to feel very lonely – so maybe she would have tweeted blunt honest courageous and sad things.
I do take your point about authenticity – but you know maybe its about format. Maybe the Blog is a narcissistic and yet imminently social forum in which, like a dressing room (rather than a shouting match) we “try on” our ideas for other to comment on, and then on our own we keep writing, staying true to ourselves.
In other words, it is a good goal to pursue, and demon to chase. But don’t worry too much if you don’t completely bare your soul in the blog, because that’s like expecting someone to walk down the street naked. It’s more “true” and revealing anyway to be naked, truly naked, in front of one person (yourself) in your own way.
Also, I think it is fleeting, this sense of being deeply and innately enmeshed in the authentic voice, and intentionally and wisely so. We must struggle to achieve it always or else it would be nothing to accomplish and anyone could do it. As for the recyclers – that’s just for people who don’t like thinking. And that is most people – and that is why it is popular. You can’t have overly popular AND authentic voice.
When I was 13, I read Sylvia Plath for the first time and I remember screaming: “This is me! This is me!”
She has been my greatest inspiration as a writer.
You could say, I’m quite addicted to Plath.
btw, have you read the Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath? This is her Best work…of course, w/ The Bell Jar.
You and I have been going back and forth on this one for the past few months. We are both struggling with these issues. Like you, I feel as though there must be more to what I’m doing and my writing. I keep thinking it will get noticed but it’s not – or at least, not what I hope for it.
I guess it all goes back to authenticity. Sometimes it seems the more I try the less I see in the results department. Part of it is redefining success. You have such a great following. I think that has a lot to do with the fact that you are consistent and honest.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with a little self-censure. If you’re not entirely comfortable sharing something because of maintaining boundaries, don’t. If it’s because you’re afraid you might lose a follower, you might want to reconsider.
Remember, I’m right there with you. Thanks for sharing this. Great post!
While I greatly admire Sylvia Plath’s talent, I found The Bell Jar to be too dark for me. However, I understand what you mean when you feel like a book just digs into your soul. Sometimes it’s not even a book; it can be a word or a paragraph.
I’ve had some of your posts touch my soul, and that’s why I think you have what it takes. You may be right in that most successful people are really successful recyclers, but I think a lot of that has to do with our society not being comfortable (or ready for) the honesty that shines from your writing. I promise you though that some people are ready for it and they do appreciate it (me!).
This was a wonderful post and I definitely could relate. The Bell Jar is one of my favorite books and one that really speaks to me (which of course freaks people out if you tell them this). I’ve read it in my 20s and then recently at 39 — each time a very different experience but still powerful. I definitely identify with the hiding behind safe posts since I write a book blog and not a personal one. Every time I think of my mother and my in-laws reading what I write, I crawl back in that hole. Thanks for your thoughts and I look forward to reading more of your blog!
I think we need the kind of insecurity that someone like Plath can make us feel – about our voices, the honesty in our writing, and the originality in our work.
I guess it’s good that someone makes us doubt ourselves, so that we can fight back, try harder and get better!
Either that or go into a depressed funk. One of the two.
Yep. Feeling ya sister. Totally relatable. I’m a writer, a damn good writer (per many professors over the years keep insisting, I don’t know why – perhaps self-doubt?) but I can’t – cannot – write a book on personal life. Please, it’s too tragic and Plath-like. I know, I know, there are readers out there that want to read your journey, yadda, yadda, yadda, but that’s been done seven ways from Sunday. As a writer, I’d like to have an original voice, an original idea and write in a language that shows intellect and passion. I can do that, but don’t ask me to get personal. I do the personal post now and again, but that’s it. And currently, my WIP is a sci-fi novel that started out as a short story for a creative writing professor who kept asking for more, more, more! Thus, my crazy shit finally found a home.
This is an excellent observation on blogging (writing). We should allow ourselves an acceptable level of selfishness when we express our thoughts and feelings on paper. We should be writing for ourselves first. It’s why you have the following that you have. I try to first satisfy myself with whatever I write, then whoever enjoys it (or hates it) afterwards is just gravy.
I (and many others) will be right here with you…
I love reading your voice, whether humorous or raw like this. I always sense your authenticity, which is what draws me. And I think that is what the best blogging is about: people, especially women, raising their true voices in a crowded world.
As usual, I find that I can totally relate to your words. Especially, the “WTF, internet?” part. I mean, seriously, what do people see in some of these famous and fabulous bloggers and writers?
There’s not anything extraordinarily new that I can add to this discussion. I will say that I’ve shared these exact same feelings before. I want more than anything to be that writer who says “fuck you I’m going to write for ME.” But I know that ultimately being the people-pleasing weirdo that I am, I’ll always seek the approval of others.
I have finally reached a point on my blog that I write what I want to write without fear of “what others might think,” which held me back from my true voice for such a long time. I wouldn’t publish things because of that fear for a long time.
But still, the doubt always creeps in at some point after hitting publish, and then it’s like, “OH NO! I only have 13 comments! They must hate me!” And that’s just about the time I start hating myself.
For what it’s worth, I love your writing. Your authenticity and voice make you one of my favorite writers to read…period. And I love this post, because it’s honest and insightful, and it pretty much kicks ass. Just like you.
Great post. “A voice within her who would not be still.” What a great way to describe the urge to write. I wonder if people are just confused between narcissism and being reflective. I don’t think there’s anything wrong to write “I, I, I” if the “I”s are a vehicle for the readers to discover something about themselves.
I really needed to hear these words today. Struggling with some of the same issues myself lately. Plath did say it perfectly and this quote said it all:
“Everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” Now, I think I need to go buy some Plath. Love her!
This was great Abby. Not only do I also think Plath was an incredible writer who moved me the first time I read her, but I also find inspiration from the greats. I write about writing, referencing Hemingway often.
To be our authentic selves is the only thing that may satisfy our souls. Whether that authentic self is witty, wise, or worldly, it doesn’t matter. Write from the heart…(and thanks for the reminder back to me).