The Things You Can’t Write About

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There is something funny (weird, not haha) about having a blog where you claim to be “candid”, “authentic”, even “transparent”…

Because no matter how hard you try you inevitably encounter things that you can’t write about, things that are not appropriate to be hashed out in this space, things that are too intimate, too unresolved, too raw for public consumption.

I’m curious. What do you do with the things you can’t write about?

How do you keep them from robbing you of your voice?

How do you reconcile transparency and an appropriate level of confidentiality?

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Lindsey has a sincere love for her precious dogs Molly and Maisy, a good red wine and the Delta Sky Club. She spends her days (and some nights) laboring to end childhood hunger at Feed the Children and to gather, equip and unleash women at IF:Gathering.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • That is a tough one. For me there are days when I’m very down. I have written about these days and how all the feelings and thoughts, but I am very wary of actually posting it. Mainly because I don’t want my family and close friends that read my blog to call and worry. Then there are experiences I want to write about. Experiences where I have been hurt, but even if I don’t share names involved I live in such a small town most will figure it out. So I guess all that to say I write so I don’t lose my voice, but it’s not necessarily shared on the blog. Doesn’t mean I’ll never post it, but I sit on it awhile first.

    • anytime i post about having the “blahs”…i get a slew of “all you alright?” text messages…it kind of makes me laugh.

  • Loswhit

    You can’t say things like “What worship song has the biggest balls?” without a church telling you you are not welcome there anymore

    • If you can’t do that then I don’t want to be a part of that worship service!

    • I think that’s the funniest question I’ve ever heard. I don’t think I could even say it out loud without rolling around on the floor laughing!

    • So ridiculous…what worship song does have the biggest balls?

    • what is funny about this is wednesday night the church I was at sang skeleton bones and as they started to play it all I could think about was how ballsy of a move it was to play this for a worship song…maybe that is the one

  • I have a hard time being completely transparent in my writing because I know my mom subscribes and reads it. There are things that I feel like I can’t say without hurting her feelings, things that involve my family that I know she would consider private, or things that I feel like I can’t say because I’m afraid it will change how she views me. I know at some point I’m going to have to overcome that fear and talk to her about it, because I can’t keep avoiding the topics. As for the confidentiality, I usually ask permission from my friends before I write about them, or I at least try to write in such a way that no one knows who I am talking about. I feel like this is a really difficult subject, and I still don’t know where the line is.

  • Ed Roden

    Interesting that you write this. My blog is on Ministry in the Marketplace …and I’m an IT guy, so my team reads my stuff and can find it. They are linked to me on Twitter, FB, and everywhere in between. Sometimes I have to keep my voice with specific friends, who will keep that confidentiality.

  • Great thought! I’m in one of those moments myself where I am learning a lot through a life situation that I can’t share on my blog because of the issue’s sensitive nature. The only way I can share what I’m learning is by omitting how I came to what ever realization I had. Adversely, we also share more than ever before thanks to social media. It could be possible we just need to keep some stuff for personal processing. Again, great post, made me stop and think.

  • I’ve been going through the same thing with my blog. Some things need to be kept private and treasured, but it is difficult because when I can’t write about the biggest part of my life, I don’t know what to write about. The conclusion I’ve come to is that this is the time to stretch creatively and write with transparency in a new way.

  • That is the very reason why I still keep a journal.

  • And I just realized I didn’t answer any of your questions with my 1st comment! Ha! The things I can’t write about are recorded in my journal. I don’t feel like my voice has been robbed…it’s just a matter of finding a new way to use it. When it comes to transparency and confidentiality…I’m transparent about what I can write about. The people in my life get to opt out of my blog and I don’t want my whole life to be open to the general web.

  • Politics (unless you’re a political pundit)
    Sex (unless you’re Ann Landers Tila Tequila)
    Money (unless you’re giving it away or teaching people how to make more)

    Side note: Transparency is for all. Vulnerability is for some.

    xoxo

  • I’m thinking guest posting under a pseudonym?

    I have a humongo factor from my life that I feel like I can’t write about on my blog without really throwing another person under the bus. A transgression which the person has been completely forgiven for (by me and God), however, one that has completely shaped my very existence.

    Sadly, the offender, has yet to forgive himself and I feel like I will only make that issue worse if I write about it.

    It’s definitely left me feeling like I can’t be very authentic since I can’t express what has shaped much of my world view. Honestly,it’s been quite a quandry for me the last couple of weeks, as the offense is something I continue to “deal” with on a daily basis. I guess, as another commenter wrote, I’ll just have to get more creative.

    • I’ve been going through some major stuff at the moment, and because I feel I can’t talk about it, I also feel as though I can’t talk about anything else, as everything’s intrinsically connected.

      It’s frustrating, as I feel I’m not being transparent and genuine.

    • That is not a bad idea.

  • I have made my life an open book which leaves me both vulnerable and transparent. The only things I don’t post or write about are things that will hurt others (so I don’t normally name names) and things I have not found an answer about or to in the word of God. A high level of vulnerability is a part of transparency in my authenticity walk. I don’t post my prayers online, I do those in private and God answers publicly…whether I like the answer or not.

  • Deb Barnett

    that’s what good gal pals are for… as in… well, you know. Girl time. Coming soon to an East Nashville pub near you.

  • I still write it (in a word doc)… just don’t publish it… Writing helps me process. God and I talk a lot in writing (Him to me = Bible, me to Him typing and sometimes even handwritten stuff…).

    • I do this with things that have upset me, but do not call for confrontation… you know, those things you want to vent – but shouldn’t…

      I will type an email or word document then delete it 🙂

  • The bathroom wall works really well. That way I’m able to express whatever’s on my heart….even though I really want to write it on my blog. And, the bonus here is that whoever chooses to read it could possibly get some therapy and a good laugh or two – it also solves the transparency/confidentiality fiasco. 🙂

    • Always wondered who the “bathroom writers” were, now I know.

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  • As I consider what I have and haven’t discussed, I find I’ve been too honest. I know that I really need to put a border around what I will (not) write about, but I haven’t yet.

    With my blog it’s all there in black and white. Even if I’m not the most conservative Conservative chica out there. For example, Bianca mentioned sex as a taboo. Meanwhile, me? I’m celibate and it’s not a secret.

    *reconsiders your question*

    One of my latest posts was inspired by an encounter with someone who seems obsessed with reminding me of how wrong (hell-bound?) I am for having a relaxed approach to certain issues. Rather than venting outright, I chose to write generally. (Which wasn’t exactly a stretch, as this person’s rants haven’t exactly signified a line of thinking that’s new to me.)

    Re confidentiality and transparency, I say generalize and be vague. For example, I could have been specific in my aforementioned entry, but by taking the general route, I managed to a) speak my mind and b) remain honest. Quite frankly I was even fed up enough with the way that I had been confronted, that I had drafted an alternate entry in my head. (You know when writers say, “so-and-so’s details have been changed to protect their identity”? I have no qualms about using that tactic.)

    As for things I “can’t” write about…I just put those in the pile with what I “don’t” write about. Those things simply won’t come up on my blog because they’re none of my readers’ business.

  • I call this “The Wikileaks Dilemma” .

    Wikileaks believe that there should be more transparency but, when it doesn’t relate directly to them, they can’t find the line between openness and legitimate confidentiality.

    Of course, they’re happy to keep the name of the person who leaked something to them secret but they don’t think the government should be allowed to have the dame discernment.

    Finding the boundaries is hard and it’s a fine line between transparent and hurtful.

    It’s also highly subjective. What I think is over-the-line may be well within your boundaries (and vice-versa)

    I think you do a great job of finding the line on your blog.

    I generally consider:

    1) Will it cause hurt or embarrassment to someone else?
    2) Will it unnecessarily damage my relationship with someone or hinder the repair of that relationship?
    3) Would I want someone writing the same about me?
    4) Will it hinder my witness?

    • Peter, Those are great things to consider. I really appreciate your encouragement.

  • I guess that depends on what it is that I can’t talk about. My blog isn’t necessarily a personal blog so there is freedom to not talk about personal life as that is normally a Facebook or Twitter thing. However depending on the situation if I chose to blog about it I’d either talk about it taking a different approach, look at what others are saying about it, or talk with a friend about how to approach it in public way.

  • Anonymous

    So true! my partner and I are constantly back and forth about what’s TOO gross/inappropriate…and tere’s A LOT of that as moms of 4 boys each!

  • This is a question I’m debating often lately. Often. And one I’m not sure I have answers to.

    I use email a lot, with a few close friends for the private stuff that needs to be processed “out loud” in writing, with listeners, but isn’t suited for the whole public audience of my blog.

    Or I try to write about those situations more broadly and vaguely, in a way where I know what the specifics are, but others don’t, while still catching the gist of my thoughts.

  • There’s no subject I can’t write about and there’s nothing that if it was entirely up to me I would keep hidden. I sometimes leave out names because A) it’s not my place to tell who the story is really about or B) it would be gossip to mention the name of a person whose decision I may be using as an example to make a point.

    But there’s a lot of things I’ve written on about my life that my friends and family wish I hadn’t written…

  • I don’t write about my family ( they are entitled to their confidentiality).

    I try not to make light of things which are precious to others, especially for religious reasons.

    I try to avoid overt party political comment, since this will alienate some readers

  • I wish I could write about the things people say and do in my small group from church. I don’t want to get kicked out, though. I write about them and just keep the stories somewhere else. Maybe someday I will change the names and some of the details and use them. Love the new blog design by the way.

  • MandyThompson

    Wow. What a question(s)… uh. well. I make sure that I’m completely authentic with the things I CAN share. And, then, I give real-life relationships the essences of my life that I can’t share with the interweb. I just make sure the right people know the right things and stay authentic that way. But that’s me.

    • Yeah, that’s pretty much how I do it too. Just sometimes it leaves me with nothing to say here.

  • Bob Hamp

    Lindsey, I used to make my living as a professional counselor….we are bound by an ethic known as confidentiality. A helpful rule for me, was to define this not as privacy, only, but as communication that builds confidence. Confidentiality should build confidence with my clients, and confidence with the community that I serve and live in.
    One question I ask is; whose story is this to tell? Some stories would be great, it simply is up to oter people involved whether they want to be exposed in some way.
    Great question!!

    • I learned this about my son’s adoption story.

      I used to tell everyone about how I adopted him and “his” story. As he got a little older, a great friend said to me “now that he is older, maybe you should limit what you tell, let him control what is revealed. I don’t walk around saying ‘ This is Sarah, I had her at 2:00 a.m. it was a terrible c-section and we pushed for 3 hours first.'”

      Great point about “Whose story it is to tell.”

    • That is a great point. Sometimes our story gets tangled up in someone else’s and it is important to make sure that we don’t take the liberty of sharing something that is not ours to tell.

  • I still have an old-fashioned journal. That’s where I pout out everything that’s in my heart and mind unedited before God. Much of that makes it un-sanitized right into my blog, but some of it will ferment for years in there.

    I would explode if I couldn’t write somewhere completely free.

    • I haven’t journaled in years. Maybe I need to try it again.

  • Sometimes I write about the stuff I can’t write about in a blog in a journal. Other times, I talk that stuff out with a friend. But usually the stuff I can’t write about is in the forefront of my mind, so even if I write about it on my own, pray about it, or talk with a friend about it, I still have the thoughts streaming in my head! 🙂 I guess it seems like I try to post something encouraging for others when I’m not sure what else to post.

  • I experienced this recently when my dad was ill. It was too intense and my heart was too entrenched in the struggle to share. I was too busy surviving to write about it.

    I’ve never been good at pen & paper journaling. There’s something about the blog that brings a part of me to life that a journal never did. Makes no sense, but it’s true. So, if it’s to heavy/confidential/personal or if I’m just not ready, I tend to keep most of it in my head and heart. I may make notes or jot down feelings here or there. But mostly I just share with those closest to me and give myself time to process internally before processing externally. Come to think of it, many times I process in writing but leave it vague and confusing for my poor readers.

    So, in summary, I have nothing definitive to say other than I understand. That and, I am a walking contradiction. Awesome.

    • Aren’t we all…walking contradictions. Looking forward to running with you tomorrow. It must be you because I don’t really get excited about running.

      • Do you like this disqus business? We can discuss between chattering of teeth tomorrow.

  • I actually keep quite a bit in a private journal – and the things I do start to write in a blog, I usually save them as drafts until I translate them to my journal.

    And I have to agree with Bianca here – she summed it up very nicely. There are some things that just need to stay private. Like it states in scripture, it reminds us not to throw our pearls before swine. I believe our very private, very hard core lessons with God, really need to be cherished and treasured as pearls – and not to be cast out before everyone.

  • My policy has been to ask myself, “This may be true, but is it beneficial?” And if it is beneficial but I still feel a need to keep it somewhat private, I figure out a way to do that in either an anonymous or light hearted way. I personally believe that in a desire to be open and transparent, there is a time when we can over share and hurt people and/or our credibility.

    • Being totally honest but totally kind… 🙂

  • Anonymous

    I’m totally okay with writing about my depression struggles, even if it means that a potential future employer happens across my blog and doesn’t like it. I is who I is, and I’ll still be the same whether I write it or not.

    However, I can’t write about what people do that bother me. I can’t tell someone that they are making me really angry because they’re being rude or neglectful. I can’t tell someone they’re making a wrong decision. Yet I think it. I think it SO LOUDLY that I scream it in my head and sometimes I just want to word vomit EVERYWHERE. But I can’t. I know I can’t. I just wish I could figure out a way to let people know they’re making a mistake or being hurtful without sounding like, “YOU’RE A RETARD.”

    Sigh.

  • I’m learning that not everything that rumbles between my earposts needs to be on the blogosphere 🙂 Due to my role in ministry, due to the lack of brain-editing that often goes on, and due to the fact that what is in my head and what comes out on paper are not always the same thing and often my words can do more damage than good.

    And I’m learning timing is everything

  • Rmartin

    How about following Emily’s dictum? Tell all the truth but tell it slant–/Success in circuit lies . . .

    As far as transparency and confidentiality, I’d say this: The materials of your life are your own. But don’t be reckless, don’t act from revenge — and give the material you write about plenty of time to cool so you don’t act from those motives without recognizing it.

  • Love this post and such a lot of great comments!

    There are certain things I will not post about – anything I wouldn’t tell my husband 🙂 – oh, and any issues in our relationship – that is private.

    The rest is out there BUT…… I actually started a private blog today (and then happened on your post) because there are lots of things I can’t say because I don’t want to hurt people but I need to process, and I just can’t process with pen and paper (I tried so many times – doesn’t work for me)