Howpersonal can you get in your writing and still appeal to more than just yourself?Does anyone care about your own small struggles? It depends. Are you actually writing about a struggle? Or are you writing about what you had for lunch today? Even documentary film is telling a story with an exploration and an outcome, otherwise, it is simply surveillance footage. Not compelling, right?
There are things we all share – mothers, daughters, bosses, lovers – and relationships to them that can drive us crazy, build us up, give us hope, or for that matter, make us doubt humanity. These are universals. So even as you share your very personal relationship to a story or person, we gain insight about our own relationships and emotions.
Doesn’t Carly Simon’s song: You’re So Vain (You Probably Think this Song is About You) have a ring of truth to it beyond just herself and … Warren Beatty?…Mick Jaggar?? Of course it does. In fact, the song is still #82 on Billboard‘s Greatest Songs of All-Time. And people have speculated about the identity of the vain person far and wide. (And just for the sake of gossip, I’ll reveal that James Taylor was “definitely not” the subject of the song, but other possibles that have been floated include: David Bowie, David Cassidy, and Cat Stevens, David Geffin, and Daniel Kent Armstrong, a musician, and one-time fling. Source: Wikipedia.) Suffice it to say, a very private moment and/or emotion can capture universality and ensnare and engage a broad audience.
In fact, having the courage to share the emotion and growth that comes from a very private moment, can leapfrog your creation into the hearts of an audience. I came to this topic, because my son writes rap lyrics, and he recently turned some conversations we’ve been having around the house into the rap below. Like a couple of writing pros we were discussing resistance, inaction and action. And how, even if you break through resistance and begin writing fabulous stuff, people around you might not see or appreciate the difference.
Writing may be hard to justify, bec it looks a lot like sitting, or in this case, “playing with his phone.” When others question what the heck you’re doing with your time, you may have a similar dissatisfaction with the ephemeral gains of the day.
Well, I wanted to share his rap, here, bec it is very personal. It’s about his sister, me, indecision, his inner struggle to write and create meaning in his life. I think it achieves a much broader message than that. I’m not writing this to brag about my son’s work, but to give a specific (and perhaps universal?) example of how everything is material, if we permit ourselves to feel it, and convey it. Here’s his rap.
There’s spit in my beard
This shit’s getting weird
The way that I been smoking bong rips never cleared
Paul with the way I’m revered
Talk to myself hope you hear it
Know that if I cannot make it that I’ll be there in spirit
Ok it’s haff dedd Fred hoping that’ll double up soon
Catch a casket tombstone reads fuck you
You don’t really wanna know what I been up to
Still just fucking wishing that you could even come thru
But you can’t so I been on my own for a minute
Got back to the mission I been on since I was an infant
I was held hostage by my inhibitions but now I regained my vision
Broke out of the indecison
And made a fucking decision
I wear my thoughts on my sleeve
So believe every word that I breathe
Lately I can’t shake the feeling that all of you hate me
Smoking choking wheezing until my ribcage is shakey
I ain’t lost control I know cuz you could never make me
Leave some posies on my domepiece some daisies on my grave please
lately I been feeling fucking anxious
Look my reflection in the eye terrified maybe I ain’t shit
On trial I’m the defense and the plaintiff
a jury of my peers told me that I wouldn’t make it
Now thats in my brain reverborating
Go ahead and tear my heart out that shit’s perforated
I try to live my life as a statement
it’s hit the road or go broke so I’m pounding the pavement
Never know when is my next payment
Once I’m getting the cheese I’m never gonna say when
In the courtroom you shit talk me
Y’all are mushrooms too shit talk-y
Life like a light switch flicks off in a moment
You might wanna focus