By Caitlin Kelly
We’ve all got hidden nooks and crannies…
I just finished reading a new memoir, The Skin Above My Knee, by a woman I met through a local writers’ group, Marcia Butler. She was, for years, a skilled professional oboist and her candid and powerful memoir describes in detail both coping with her difficult family and her highly successful musical career.
She also reveals that both her parents are now dead, so discussing their behavior, abusive and deeply rejecting, could have no immediate consequences.
In journalism, we call disclosure “opening the kimono” and, especially when writing personal essays, it’s a challenging decision to know what to say and what to withhold from public, permanent view.
Now that everything can be quickly and widely shared online — and snarled at by trolls — it’s even more daunting to decide how much to tell millions of strangers about yourself, sharing things you might never have told anyone before, not even a best friend or therapist.
Our stories can resonate deeply, informing and educating (and amusing) others. While reading Marcia’s book, there were several moments when I had experienced the exact same thing at exactly the same age. That was a bit spooky!
I’ve had a life filled with fun adventures — meeting Queen Elizabeth aboard her yacht Brittania, visiting a 500-member Arctic village, traveling eight days across Europe with a French truck driver, performing at Lincoln Center in Sleeping Beauty as an extra.
But, of course, I’ve also had many moments of fear and panic — dating a con man who had done jail time in another state, a quick and ugly divorce from my first husband, bullying at the hands of several bosses. Without the dark(er) bits, it’s all saccharine sunshine.
I too, come from a difficult family and have had many years of estrangement from both parents and a step-sibling.
So, which stories to include, and which to delete?
Which to highlight in detail and which are just…too much?
I recently had lunch with two women, highly accomplished journalists with awards and tremendous track records of professional achievement. One, a good friend who has known me for 13 years, is urging me to write a memoir, and I’m considering it.
But both women freely admitted that they would not. They’d each be too uncomfortable revealing the woman beneath the professional veneer, however truthful that exterior is.
Once something is out there for public consumption, you can’t control how readers will react, whether with compassion and admiration or scorn and derision.
I read a few blogs where the writers share much more intimate detail about their lives.
Not sure this is where I want to go next.
How much do you share in your public writing, like books, articles and blogs?
Have you ever regretted over-sharing?