As a writer, you’re constantly handling the balance of how much of your personal life to divulge to your audience. As a comedy person, you’re constantly balancing how much of the painful details to twist into a funny anecdote. So when you’re a comedy writer, you’re basically playing the game of “Which horrific moment of my life can be a funny essay without me completely selling my soul to the Devil, Faustus-style?”
I’m not a comedy writer, or a comedy person, or a writer. I’m not even legally a human. But as a professional Ina Garten drag impersonator and someone who operates a blog, I find that more and more, I’m running into that issue. When nothing was happening in my personal life, it was easy to write about it. But as I grow and evolve, and the issues in my life grow and evolve, I am beginning to notice a line in the sand that is harder and harder to cross.
And it’s only until things actually started happening in my life that I realized that the “life” that I was writing about was literally nothing. But now my life is actually starting to roll, and not just in the same sense as the Gloucester Cheese Roll Competition. Because that’s funny.
There is an intense impulse to publish for writers. My journalism professor talks about that impulse all the time, or at least I’m assuming he does, because I spend most of my time in that class reading RuPaul’s Drag Race recaps. But when something happens to me, like that time I fell down the stairs or the time I sat on a plate of quesadillas or any time I make a fool of myself in front of a boy, my first instinct is to share it, Tweet it, or blog it. And that instinct is more than just the desire to share something that happens. It’s the desire to take back control of the situation.
Blogging incapsulates your life, packaging it into palatable, hilarious little morsels. The tale of me getting hurt by the first boy I cared about becomes a funny essay. A bad date becomes fodder for griping. The various aches and pains of existing as a real-life scarecrow—my brand—translates into rubbery antics. Writing takes the sting out of embarrassment and hurt and pain, and turns it into comedy. And on one hand, it’s extremely cathartic. It provides me the distance to process and dissect something, to take myself out of the equation.
Recently things have been happening to me. Some are amazing. Some are terrible. And my first instinct has always been to blog about them. But for the wrong reasons. I want to take myself out of these moments, but I’m also afraid to. I’m afraid to talk about the crazy, shitty things that are monumental in my life because then I relinquish control of them. They cease being intimate to me. They become content, public domain. They are no longer mine. And that’s been hard to come to terms with. That some things could easily be sting-less and funny and palatable, but that would mean losing my place in them. It would be accepting them as past and renaming them as something meant to be consumed.
My wanting to blog them is my wanting to stop them from hurting. Things have been rough lately, and that kneejerk reaction to make the bad thing stop is very much in play. But sometimes things have to hurt. I can’t—I shouldn’t—blog my way out of this. I’m trying not to make it into a joke or a punchline or a laugh. I’m trying to give it gravity. It’s really fucking hard, and lousy and frustrating. Because my instinct, as a writer and a former dork and a wannabe cool kid, is to cannibalize, produce and de-sting all the awkard’s and ew’s and damn’s of my life.
I’m a memory cannibal, and that’s not always a bad thing. A lot of amazing things come out of shitty situations, but I’m in this weird position of realizing that if I mean to take this writing thing seriously, there are lines in the sand that I have to respect. One of my favorite writers, Ryan O’Connell, wrote about the same kind of experience. And as he got older, he realized that he couldn’t just write about every drug trip, bad sexual experience, and “Ouch-funny” moment that happened. That knowing the difference is the divide between “writing” and “being a writer.”
So in true self-absorbed writer fashion, I’m writing about writing about something. Maybe one day in the future, when I have enough money to hire a defense lawyer, I’ll tell some of the stories that I’m keeping in the vault. They’ll be good then, and I’ll have distance. And in my tell-all book, Telling It All—The Tonya Harding Story (Just Kidding, It’s Me, Danny), I’ll reference this blog post, and people will go to their antique Macs and pull up the article while sitting in their hover-houses with their pleasure-robots (I hope).