Having Courage and Writing in New Directions

True confession: I’m a compulsive blog-starter, but I abandon them after two or three posts. I don’t abandon them because I have nothing to say; rather, I’m afraid to write the things I most want to say. I started this blog over a year ago. Somehow, I’m still posting, a huge personal milestone for me. I’ve learned a lot from this blog. Most importantly, I’ve used it as a space to share about my own emotional struggles with the writing process. Much to my surprise, many people share those same struggles. We’re all trying to write while grappling with perfectionism, shame, and fear. I love getting comments, tweets, or emails about my posts that say, “Me too!” Knowing that I’m not alone in my struggles helps me move forward. I hope reading my blog has helped other people feel like we’re all in this together.

When I started this blog, I never thought I’d write about anything beyond grammar advice and occasional rants about the evils of using the passive voice. I envisioned it as a tool for teaching, rather than emotional growth. I was shocked to discover that when I wrote blog posts from an emotionally vulnerable place in my heart, people responded. For example, one of my most popular posts deals with shame. I came to realize that people’s writing problems were often emotional, rather than technical. The head and heart are never as separate as we might imagine.

In addition to opening good conversations about feelings about writing, I’m a better writer because of this blog. Regular blog writing has improved my writing more than any book or writing class. When I started blogging, I couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to sound like on a blog. I am, of course, supposed to sound like me. I think I do. I’ve found my writing voice and style. I’ve learned that I prefer short sentences and words. I’ve discovered that academic wordiness exhausts me. Writing this blog has helped me take risks with my writing that I never thought possible.

I’m ready to take some new risks. I made a big decision about my writing a few weeks ago: I want to take my writing in a personal direction. I’m ready to try writing about something different than writing.

I want to write about my life.

In particular, I want to write about my life as an adopted person. I’ve got things to say about it.

 I want to integrate my writing, historical, and personal interests into a single website that reflects me as a person. I thought at one point that I’d start a separate website for my adoption writing. It didn’t appropriate for my professional “writing and editing” site. The more I thought about it, however, the more I realized that people are complex. The personal and professional do not exist in isolation from each other. Besides, I didn't want to write about adoption on a separate site as if It were something I should feel ashamed about.

Maintaining scholarly objectivity as an academic often frustrated me as a graduate student. Sometimes in seminars, my classmates and I derided certain monographs as “activist writing.” Privately, I often wondered how we should address subjects we felt strongly about. As scholars, I was never sure how we were supposed to advocate for people and causes important to us. I’m still not sure. However, this is my website, my blog, and my life. I can be an activist and advocate if I want.

 I think I could write a respectable academic monograph about adoption. However, I think it would always be tainted by the idea that because I’m adopted, I’m an “activist.” (As if that’s a bad thing.) I also want people to read my writing. As the statistics on my website show, my current has more hits than any of the academic work I’ve published. An academic monograph is the wrong vehicle for intensely personal writing. A blog, however, is exactly the right thing.

 Adoption has been the one thing that I’ve most wanted to write about, yet also the subject that I am the most afraid to write aboutIn the last few years, I’ve realized that I have very strong feelings about being an adopted person. Living life adopted has shaped the lens through which I view the world and directed my choices. As I’ve thought more about adoption, both as a personal experience and as an institution, I’ve developed definite opinions about it. As a life experience, being adopted is neither easy nor simple. It is a complex and deeply personal journey. I’m most afraid of what other people will think about my opinions, which often don’t reflect society’s generally positive views on adoption. What if people find out that I have strong feelings? What if I alienate friends and family? What if what I write makes people angry? What if people label me as angry? And the worst: what if my parents find out that I write about being adopted on the internet?

Any time I talk about adoption with anyone, the subject strikes people’s nerves. Adoption is both intensely personal and political. It is not just an alternative means of building families. It involves local and global issues of class, race, gender, and sexuality. Adoption requires thinking about what we believe about children and parents. It invokes histories of eugenic thinking, the ideals of post-World War II nuclear families, and public debates over who deserves to be a parent. It involves concepts of family and individual honor and shame. It sometimes involves the global flow of children from poor nations towards privileged adoptive parents in developed countries.

There are lots of people already writing excellent pieces about adoption, particularly adoptees. As the people with the least amount of power in the adoption process, we so often have no voice. I want to use my website to as a public platform from which to add to ongoing conversations.

I’m not abandoning this blog, but I’ve outgrown my website. So here’s what I think I’m going to do. I’m going to rearrange the website and make space for my personal life and writing. I’m still going to write about the emotional side of writing. (And I’m still editing, in case anyone needs an editor!) I’m not sure what the site will look like yet or how I’ll organize it. All I know is that I want to tell the story of who I am with my whole heart.