when i was a schoolgirl, i had a schoolgirl crush of epic proportions. it lasted from elementary school until college. the problem was, i was too shy to actually talk to the object of my crush. so instead i wrote to him . . . in a secret journal i kept underneath my mattress.
i don't remember what i wrote, only that i wrote what i could not say out loud. at the time, it was an effective way to deal with my unrequited feelings, but eventually it became embarrassing. so embarrassing, in fact, that once the journal was filled, i tore the pages to pieces and flushed them down the toilet.
i'm sharing this story with you, dear writer, to illustrate the power of the epistle, "a composition in the form of a letter" (webster's dictionary). the letter is an incredibly personal and honest way to express thoughts and feelings that are difficult to express any other way. i have exposed some my greatest vulnerabilities on sheets of paper stuffed into envelopes (like the love letter i wrote in the third grade, on hello kitty stationary, to a boy named rick).
earlier this week, an epistle went viral. a mother with meniere's disease and a modest blog following wrote a post titled, "dear daughter, let miley cyrus be a lesson to you". the post was shared, pinned, tweeted, and eventually reposted by major news networks.
i read it via a link on facebook, but didn't think much about it until yesterday when i received a weekly email from twitter highlighting this week's popular tweets. this tweet hit a nerve: "dear daughter, instead of writing a self-aggrandizing letter to you that will get clicks online, i'm just going to sit down and talk to you."
dear tweeter, you completely missed the point.
the "dear daughter" letter was not self aggrandizement. it's creative writing.
just as i was not actually writing to the object of my affection each night before bed when i pulled my secret journal from underneath my mattress, so too the author of the "dear daughter" piece was not actually writing to her daughter. she employed a clever method to publicly express her reaction to a popular event, and she likely had no idea her post would go viral. i bet the exposure has been both exhilarating and exhausting for her.
i also bet that she did sit down and talk to her daughter about miley's performance, thicke's song, and twerking in general. my daughter and i have been talking about twerking for weeks, ever since i asked her what it was. she gave me a description, and i put my hands on the ground, my feet on the wall, and rhythmically thrust my pelvis a few times. "is this twerking?", i asked, guaranteeing with a simple question and an embarrassing dance that my daughter will never, ever, twerk in public.
but enough about self degradation. let's get back to self aggrandizement, "the enhancement of one's own importance, power, or reputation" (webster's dictionary). is that not the goal of writing, dear writer? to enhance oneself through the use of words? do not our words lend our thoughts importance, our ideas power, and our reputation strength?
"writing is a muscle," writes colin nissan. "smaller than a hamstring and slightly bigger than a bicep, and it needs to be exercised to get stronger. think of your words as reps, your paragraphs as sets, your pages as daily workouts. think of your laptop as a machine like the one at the gym where you open and close your inner thighs in front of everyone, exposing both your insecurities and your genitals. because that is what writing is all about." (mcsweeney's)
you know what machine he's talking about. it's just as embarrassing as twerking. get on it. don't listen to those mean girls who laugh and point at the sweat stain emanating from your crotch and spreading down your thighs. let them have their fun in 140 characters or less. sweat through your words. squeeze your thoughts into submission. whether your work goes viral or gets flushed down the toilet is beside the point. you are not a schoolgirl with a crush. you are a writer, blessed and cursed with a love and need for words. get to work.
a fellow writer