giving yourself away

I knew, in the way one knows things vaguely and intangibly, early in my undergraduate writing career and certainly as a Master's student that writing is an act of consequence. My understanding of what that means, however, has grown the more I've written and the more honest I've tried to be with myself, and about myself in my writing. There's a kind of understanding that writers are liars. We tell stories; we stretch the truth; we remember how we want to remember. Maybe that's true but I'm a pretty bad liar and a pretty good writer. Perhaps fiction and lies aren't the same thing in my mind. In fact, I know they aren't. I can create fictions as I did in childhood, whole mythologies about my life: the southern romantic nostalgia I so love to spin. I know, however, the importance of dismantling nostalgia and coming to terms with my girlhood. I make a conscious effort to remember that I hate the humidity, the cloying smell of honeysuckle and sweat. That there is a heaviness to my relationship to the Gulf Coast, to home. But I can't help but long for it all in its rich complexities in ways I will never understand.

I recently got back from Daytona where I scored AP exams. The week was long, tiring but fulfilling. I walked on the beach at night, stared into the ocean and thought about how the process of the Ph.D. program and of dissertating has drained me. But also about what I'm learning about who I am as a teacher, scholar and writer.

During a conversation (as we waited in the airport for our plane) with one of my committee members, I talked about how personal this project has become. I did not realize when I began writing it that it was about me, about my struggle, my identities. It is, like my thesis, about me as a writer only instead of me exploring myself through poetry, I examine social media and academic discourse. Still, it's startling at the end of this to see realize that I've been headed here all along. My thesis was titled Mosaic: The Shaping of a Poet, Woman, Daughter because those were the identities my work dealt with at the time. I was struggling with each identity, trying to make the pieces fit. The Ph.D., for me, has been about making other pieces fit. I've complicated the puzzle by adding new pieces: teacher, professional, scholar but at the core of it all: I'm still a Southern girl trying to sort herself out.

What I am discovering as I rework my pedagogy chapter, that I was drawn to blogs because of the revelations bloggers seemed to discover through their writing. Having such writing read by an audience seemed incredible, and added a layer of complexity to the form because readers could write back. They could have their own revelations and tell the blogger about them, extending the text and making it, somehow, their own. What I see now is that all writing is revelation. All writing is revealing; it's about giving yourself away. For non-fiction writers and memoirists these pieces may be larger than others, sure but whether you write an academic essay or a blog post, there's some small sliver of you left on screen or on the page. So, if writing is consequential and revealing then as a writing teacher, I have to be willing to offer my students something in return. And when I look back on my teaching Internship where I tried using blogs in the classroom, I realized I never gave myself away. Instead, I maintained a teacher identity, causing students to perform as students not individuals. Blogs did not fail me. I failed. I failed because I was unable to reveal myself to my students in any way. And what's really great about this epiphany is that I think it makes my pedagogy really say something. I'm hoping so anyway. It makes sense to me but I might have overdosed on sweet tea from McAlister's.