Earlier this week I sent out a text to many of my contacts, letting them know I had redesigned my website a bit and that it would mean a lot for them to take a look. An old friend from high school responded, asking in what way I would like feedback.
Though we’ve barely spoken in the past twenty years, she knew me probably better than most anyone back as a teenager, and I’m genuinely interested to see how much or little I’ve changed from her perspective since that time. She specifically offered or suggested commenting on many different aspects of the site, including mental health, about which I tend to write a lot.
This evening I wrote her an email to share my deep thanks as well as answer some of the questions about what kind of review I would appreciate her giving – I was honestly touched by the depth and breadth of her response to my text – and upon reflection realized that it may serve as a fairly key example of where I’m coming from as a creator (I still struggle to call myself a “writer”). Thus, a new entry in this category was born.
If anyone else would like to provide feedback about my writing, this blog as a presentation medium, or anything else that gets brought up here, please feel free; my email box is always open.
Good evening (morning)!
Thank you again for looking at my website and helping me improve it and myself. Obviously most of the content is split between various fiction entries and self-deprecating reflection, none of which has seen any sort of editing or review, including any second passes by myself. It’s been both a good creative outlet and a way for me to get feelings and frustrations out without worrying that I’m making them other peoples’ problems.
From a design perspective, I’m trying to draw visitors to new content while showcasing previous works and displaying that the site is actively updated, though I’m not personally a fan of having everything date-stamped. I feel the current layout is less cluttered than before, but it still doesn’t have a flow or simple path for the eye to follow; something with which I have little experience.
With regard to content (primarily fiction) I still don’t feel comfortable writing dialogue, and so much of my work ends up with long, “tell not show” paragraphs between simple sentences. I’ve also noticed a frustrating tendency to use “[character] [past-tense verb]” after each statement (said, responded, threatened, opined, and so forth). I could use some help in other options to vary my writing and make it less formulaic and robotic.
Form a content accessibility standpoint, I try to make most of my narratives relatively independent from the setting, enough so that specific details or call-outs will speak to readers familiar with the world, but specific knowledge of the setting isn’t required to understand the emotion or actions of the characters. I even feel this way about the RPG- and character-focused posts, as I try to make them more narrative than anything else.
When it comes to mental health, it’s something I currently struggle with, and likely have struggled with for a very long time. A crushing feeling of inadequacy and shame fills most of my personal reflections, though as with all things there is an ebb and flow to it. I’m taking daily medication to shave the edge off the lows*, and luckily have established something of a regular baseline. Writing my most recent Self-Reflection post – in which category I sequester most of those entries, far from the casual reader – resulted in me having a sit down with a few select friends and later my wife to discuss its contents, which ultimately has lead to some action on my part to try and dig myself out of this self-imposed social oubliette. Ironically enough I’ve spent most of this week feeling better than I have in months. Without intending this to be a leading statement, I’m more than willing to answer any questions you may have or that arise.
Obviously having friends try to unpack a year and a half’s worth of blog posts isn’t what I intended by sending out my text; though I’ve stopped collecting and looking at website stats, I still hope to spread the word that I am creating art and/or content that may be up some alleys. If nothing else I want to show people that their voice, the stories they have to tell, are important and worth sharing (even if at times I find it very hard to apply to my own work). Any comments you have about form, content, structure, presentation, or narrative style are well-appreciated. It’s difficult for me to ask for help and it means a lot to me that you responded.
How amazing it is that we’re here in our mid-to-late thirties, and what we’ve made of ourselves and the world. I don’t think any of us could really have expected how our lives would have (and continue to) turn out.
As it’s 2am and I’m feeling a bit self-conscious at how long and rambling this email has been, I’ll leave off with another round of appreciation for your offer to help, your perspective, and your concern. It does mean a lot to me.
Thank you again,
* It took me a very long time to stop believing that my needing medication was solely a sign of weakness and personal failing – my mind is pretty adept at finding opportunities for self-criticism.