“If you can’t handle the heat, get out of the kitchen.”
I hear this line a lot.
It’s because I’m a blogger. And I’m thin-skinned. And I’m weak.
I don’t mean weak in a negative way. I’m emotionally weak. Negative comments, especially personal ones, especially ones from people I know, can cause me to fall into a spiral of depression for days.
I’ve had posts where the reaction, the comments, the messages telling me how much I suck, have made me sick for days.
So, I’m weak. And yeah, I’m thin-skinned.
And yet, I write about the thing that you’d expect someone who has a thin skin not to write about. I “bring controversy on myself,” some might argue. I write pieces about inflammatory topics. I push myself to say more, do more, get more out of the world.
And the more I do, the more the hurtful comments happens. The more I find out people are “talking about me.” The more friends I lose.
Why do I do it? The two are completely contradictory: this being thin-skinned and this writing. This absolute dissolution in the face of anger, hatred, hurt being thrown at me. And my continued pushing to do more, write more, that will inevitably lead to more such reactions.
Because I don’t have a choice.
They tell me to leave the kitchen when I cry out about it. When I complain, or just want to be heard. When I irrationally get angry in return.
Get out of the kitchen, they say. Just stop blogging, you can’t handle it, you’re not built for it.
I can’t leave the kitchen.
We tend to see writing, painting, and other arts as compulsions, things people do because they must. But blogging is still a new art form (yeah, I called it that, deal). It’s something people see as optional, see as self-promotion, as just one of those internet things.
To me, blogging is what I breathe. It is in my bloodstream.
I don’t just love the writing. And gosh, I do love the writing. The quick pace, the need to constantly produce, the insistence to evolve with each piece written.
No, it’s not just the writing.
It’s the comments. The way I can throw out a thought I had a month, a week, a day ago, and within moments have known I touched someone’s soul. To then instantly interact with that soul: what a gift.
It’s the community. The way people slowly build around your work, how it becomes more than writing, how they become just as much a part of the work and the identity of the blog as the writing is.
It’s the utter freedom. The fact that no one can tell you what not to write. That you could change anything at any moment or experiment with something completely off the wall.
All that and so much more. Blogging to me is the ultimate writer’s platform, the place where a writer is no longer miles away from his readers, no longer waiting for the gatekeepers to deem his work worthy, where he is as close to the effects of his writing as a writer can possibly get.
All of that, it excites me more than I can describe to you. It fits me. It is me.
I can’t leave the kitchen because the kitchen is the most exciting thing in the world.
But there’s still the matter of the thin skin. Am I a tortured pathetic person who just doesn’t deserve to be in the kitchen despite his compulsive need?
Here’s what people are missing when they tell me, or any other writer, blogger, creator, or artist that we aren’t cut out for what we do because of our thin skin. Because we are sensitive and weak.
We create because we have a thin skin. We blog because we are sensitive. We love what we do because we are weak.
I’ll never forget my mother once crying out in concern in the car when I was young saying, “Oh, Elad, you’re so sensitive. I don’t understand it.”
Neither did I. I was alone in this body that seemed to be a jumble of nerves with the skin removed. I couldn’t touch anything without feeling it deeply.
Then I discovered art, and especially writing. And suddenly, my sensitivity had a place to live. It had a place to exist as itself. Whereas the world is hard, and full of edges, creativity is soft and mushy. It adapts to our weaknesses, it uses them and focuses them into something productive, something special, maybe something beautiful.
Why do I love blogging? For all the reasons I listed above.
Why must I blog, no matter what? Because of my thin skin.
My thin skin is what excites me when I write something that I know no one may read, but that I want to express anyway. The thin skin works two ways. Just as much as it lets in so much, it must also let it out. It is porous and constantly in need to be naked, showing itself to the world.
My sensitivity is what makes my heart explode when I get comments saying, “Yes, I get this!” or “Oh my gosh, thank you, I needed to hear this” or even the occasional “You changed my life.”
And then to connect with those people. To turn some of them into friends. To help them find their own voices. What a gift. What beauty.
And it’s thanks to my sensitivity. The same kind that is tortured by the angry, hateful, spiteful comments. Sensitivity does not choose what it’s sensitive to. It’s a general reality. And the same sensitivity that causes me to get sick for days from a witch hunt is the sensitivity that addicts me to the connecting with more and more people, to building the community I so value, to empathizing and connecting with the people who most need my writing.
My weakness is what allows me to absolutely adore my freedom. That weakness is my greatest strength. It is what allows me to be stubbornly independent with my work, to refuse to let the gatekeepers determine my destiny.
That weakness is what makes me utterly sensitive to the awareness that I have something of worth to say. I know this only because it pains me so utterly deeply when a piece, an idea I have, a thought is rejected by them. I can’t stand it, I can’t accept it. And I’m left with two choices: think that I was wrong to ever think I had something of worth to say (this is the weakness’s danger). Or to totally, utterly defy what every authority has told me and create what I want to anyway. On my own platform. In my own way.
Every painful part of blogging, then, is simply the flipped coin of the beautiful gift it represents to me. Every comment that cuts me deep is just a reminder of how much this all matters. And any pain I’ve ever experienced is proof that I have to do this.