Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Peeper is Back

When the weather changes from stifling, humid and hot to cool and dry, my windows go open for a few months and stay open until it gets unbearably cold. That means that my privacy becomes an issue as there are four windows in my apartment and three of them can be clearly looked into by neighbors or their visitors. If I'm cooking at the gas table, I'm literally standing next to (less than 3 feet from) anyone who rings the doorbell of my neighbor's apartment.

In fact, yesterday morning, my peeper was back for another peek through the kitchen window. This time, I happened to be in the kitchen as she stood out there and gawked intently. When she saw that I was about to see her, she scampered away. That being said, I realized that this was not a person who was simply trying to invade my privacy. In fact, it was not my privacy that she wished to invade at all. Before she started peering into my kitchen, she had been ringing the neighbor's doorbell.

Said neighbor is the one who is in and out of his apartment day and night at the strangest times. He is certainly not your typical "salary man". The peeper was trying to contact my neighbor and, given the proximity of my window to his door, I believe she erroneously believed the room she was trying to look into to be his and didn't know it was connected to another apartment. I think she was trying to see if he was home and not answering his door. Given the fright I gave her (and the fact that my front door is not more than 2 feet from the window she was looking in), I hope she'll work out that this is the apartment next to his and stop sticking her nose into my business.

Privacy has also been on my mind as of late for another reason which is rather removed from my personal experience. I've been reading a memoir written by Leonard Nimoy's son, Adam. Any time a celebrity or psuedo-celebrity writes a book, you might expect some juicy bits of gossip or at least some amusing observations or anecdotes. Wil Wheaton's "Just a Geek" is a good example of one such book. And, no, not every memoir I read relates to Star Trek.

The reason Adam Nimoy's book brings privacy to mind is that it fails largely because of what I believe was an attempt to keep too much private. The book reads like a decent blog which keeps any really deep and intriguing information or serious introspection or emotional response under wraps. In terms of his family and particularly his father's privacy, I admire the restraint he shows. However, he didn't really even reveal much about himself or any sort of profound self-discovery about his life as a result of growing up with a silver spoon, succeeding, and then failing as a result of being a drug addict. As a reader, I found the book very shallow as a result.

The lesson I learned from reading his memoirs is that it's okay to protect everyone's privacy and to keep your deeper thoughts and demons to yourself. However, you can't write a very interesting book if you keep such things out of the view of prying eyes. There is no having your cake and eating it too when it comes to privacy. You can either sell yourself and your story and jeopardize your privacy and those around you who are inevitably revealed, or you can keep yourself off the auction block and work as, oh, say an accountant. You can't write a good memoir though if you restrict yourself to talking about the bland facts.

All good writing involves putting yourself at risk. Even when you don't display your deepest, darkest secrets or feelings, good writing will ultimately betray your character to attentive readers. In both fiction and non-fiction work, you can always see the needs, fears, and ego of the writer embedded in the stories and perspectives.


1tess said...

I think you said something similar when you posted about being a happy blogger:
unless you post personally, your blog, your story, your writing will be dry and uninteresting.
I have to look on the old computer to read your old post, but that was one very helpful list of advice!

Girl Japan said...

We do put ourselves at risk for being judged, and most would have probably figured me out by now but for me, I think the risk of rubbing sometimes the readers the wrong way is well worth it, at least for me blogging is therapeutic in a sense. Sometimes it is a bookmark for me as a reminder of my to-do list along with my to-buy list and my wish-list, and then a genuine connection with the readers who often become acquaintances and sometimes if we are lucky, friends.

Excellent Post!

Orchid64 said...

Thanks to both of you for the kind comments.

Sometimes I think people who don't reveal themselves to some extent are afraid to do so (depending on the topic, obviously people who write topical blogs don't fit this situation). I used to think that there was also a gender issue at play because men don't show themselves as easily as women, but I've since found some "blogger dad" types who are really putting themselves out there emotionally.

I realized some of the male bloggers (never the females so far!) are just writing to service their egos so they only write spouting off about specific topics they read about or hear about. They're cowards about sharing their emotions or personal insights though and are mainly putting themselves out there to compete in arguments with other people about politics, science, etc. And, yeah, this applies to my brother-in-law, but it also applies to other male bloggers as well. Of course, I guess you could say that trend reveals something as well. ;-)