Writing privately; writing publicly

I’m hyper aware of the divide between my private writing and my public writing these days. I wrote a few weeks ago about how I haven’t ‘hung out on the page with myself’ for a long time. Since then I’ve been doing it a lot, and I’ve noticed some shifts. My creative engine is firing up – I’ve had some really cool ideas for stories. My wordplay feels woefully rusty but I remember how much I revel in it. I’ve been more emotional; my inner life bubbles easily to the surface.

Coming back to casual creative writing, I’m realizing how much of my personal writing practice is about curating and cultivating my internal life. I don’t mean only journaling, either. Sure, sometimes I capture small memories or reflect on ideas. But I also play – I write to prompts, I write scattered drafts of stories, I write poems, I write mood sketches. And the point of all this writing isn’t about the actual pieces, whatever form or shape they take. It’s about processing whatever experiences I’m living through. And as such, most of the work is ephemerous – in the very act of writing, an emerging piece serves its purpose.

The challenge this year is I’ve been continually generating public writing as well. And I’m experiencing the tension between writing for myself – for right now, for the needs of this moment – and writing for something bigger: some body of work (real and imagined); some audience (real and imagined).

I end up mining much of my private writing to feed my public writing. I’m only beginning to grasp the relationship between these things, so I’m guessing at the impact here, but I suspect one of the reasons my private writing tailed off for a while was poor awareness of purpose. I was imagining a purpose beyond the audience of me, and so put pressure on my private writing, warped it, and my writing well dried up.

Now that I’m writing for myself again, I am aware of the value of writing just for me. But the magic of a rich creative life is sometimes pieces take off and leap from the private arena to the public one. I need to figure out how to write for myself while allowing (but not expecting) that these pieces will emerge.

How? Well. Today I do not have an answer. Today I simply formulate the question: how do I navigate the space between public and private in my writing life, especially when so many elements of the writing practice and the writing itself ends up straddling that divide?