One of the things I’ve realized through this blog and my writing is that, to be a public person, you have to share your life. That is what people want from you. They want to be let in. They want to know how you spend your days and your triumphs and your failures and your good times and those times that make you blush to think about. Sometimes they want to be uplifted, but sometimes they want to laugh at you. It doesn’t really matter. They want to be let in.
I guess I knew this on a visceral level, but I hadn’t realized the extent to which it is true. It’s definitely true for TV celebrities, of course. Reality TV. We want to see all the intimate details of the latest star who’s famous for being famous. We want to be let into their living rooms, their refrigerators, their bedrooms. Certainly a human impulse. I can imagine that the producers of reality television encourage them to reveal even more than they’re comfortable with. And we the public want ever-increasing levels of intimacy. And people are willing to give it, even at the sake of their dignity (sounding like an old fart here).
But it’s also true of writers and artists. You have to let people in in the same way if you become a celebrity, of course ~ and after all that’s one of the main reasons writers write and artists paint (see George Orwell’s “Why I Write”) ~ but you also have to let people in through your art. By that I mean the best art often comes from that part of the artists that is painful, embarrassing, heart-wrenching. You are transmuting the horrors and joys of your life into this aesthetic and emotional object, a journey for the viewer.
People have a need for art, for writing, for an aesthetic rendering of their lives or someone else’s. What we call the Touchy Feely Show (New Dimensions) was talking just today about that ~ about how narrative is not this idle thing but rather an ordering of our world that deeply impacts our lives.
And I guess, finally, what I was realizing is that being a public figure is a choice. You have to put yourself out there. You have to share. Honesty and lived truth has to shine through your work because that’s how you reach people. Which takes courage.