The Heart/Sleeve Conundrum

For when my outward action doth demonstrate
The native act and figure of my heart
In compliment extern, ’tis not long after
But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve
For daws to peck at. I am not what I am.

– Shakespeare, Othello.

I am no villain, darlings, I’m just not the social creature that some are. But like that Shakespearean villain Iago, I’m not in the custom of wearing my heart upon my sleeve, lest it be picked apart. I keep it hidden away, deep inside, protected by a moat and walls of barbed wire.

Being Helena has become too difficult for me — because what once was a mask I could hide behind and pretend not to care no longer works. It’s been cracked, broken, and now is only held together by scotch tape and rubber bands.

It’s served its purpose.

But I don’t see how much longer I can keep it up, or why I would.

Blogging is not something I really want to do. It seems that there is more to blogging than just writing interesting things, or even to have good writing.

You have to court people, form friendships — and I know that, I knew that, I’ve always known that. But I’ve never been good at the long term, and after more than two years of doing this, I am exhausted. I have social anxiety and depression. This is making me crazy.

I watch others have success, and I look at them with jealousy (the green-eyed monster, the Bard said) and look only at what I deem as the quality of their writing and I don’t get it.

But there’s my mistake — it’s not about the quality of a person’s writing (though it does help) but rather, how they socialize, how they shmooze and court followers (friends, if you will).

I KNOW that’s all part of it — but it’s the part that I suck at, because I don’t think I’m a particularly likable person. So I can’t have what I want — that divide between writer and their writing. In the blogosphere, the two will forever be intrinsically linked.

So, I don’t know what to do. Do I pull off the mask entirely, take down the Helena avatar and start calling myself something new? (Yet I still hate my face, my name, who I am and where I come from).

Is that what people need from me in order to take the next step and actually be interested in my art? Because I’ve been trying to wow you. I’ve been doing crazy things that others aren’t doing, and I feel like I’ve been standing on the highway screaming, and nobody has looked.

I feel invisible,and maybe I am because of this persona.

This is only 459 words, but for some, it will be TL/DR.

That’s okay.

Here. Here’s me.  Please tell me how this makes things any better.



37 responses to “The Heart/Sleeve Conundrum

  1. Whatever will cause you the least amount of stress and pain, whatever will allow you to focus on the things you love and the things that bring you joy, whatever is best for YOU—-damn everyone else, do what feels right to you, FOR you.

  2. I have come to realise that no matter how unlikable (you think) you are, anyone is I mean, there will always be someone who will want to be your friend.

  3. I apologize if this turns out to be an epic response, or just a confusing one, but you’ve hit on something that rings true in my own heart. While I never hid behind a persona while blogging, I also never found the way to make it be about the writing and the quality of my work. I often feel like blogging, and getting support from readers is a popularity contest, and I’ve never been popular. I do know, though, that I tend to revisit blogs where I love the writing and feel like the author is being genuine. I’m less apt to read the ones where it is all about making themselves look more popular. That said, even though I know Helena is a persona, it seems to me your genuine voice shines through. That’s why I will read anything you write, and also genuinely like having virtual conversations with you, Ken, the man behind Helena. Maybe it is time to let that person shine through. Maybe Helena has served her purpose. I’ll read whatever you write . . .

    PS. I am well engrossed in Singularity now, and loving every creepy word.

  4. It makes no difference to me whether you are Ken or Helena. So Okay I won’t tell you about my period cramps and PMS, but I generally don’t discuss that with say Lizzy either.

    I am just as much a social leper. Even more so than you.
    And since I really don’t have any friends I love to have some. But I’m not good at making friends or socializing or anything.

    I’ve recently come to accept that I will never be as popular as other bloggers. First and foremost my writing isn’t as good. Second I’m not good at social.

    Either way, what matters to me when I come here to read your blog, is good writing that I can on some level connect with. Other people may be different. I love your humor and the way you think outside the box.

    While you may not have the biggest following you do have those that are completely in love with your prose, because what you bring is a part of your writers soul. And you know what, I’m of the opinion that it is better to have a few that genuinely care than the masses that don’t give a F.

    Due to my own social in-ability can’t promise to read everything you write, but I will stop by often. Be you. Because even as Helena that is what shines through.

  5. I don’t know what TL/DR means. Also, I’ve gone through a similar identity crisis lately. Am I a writer. Or am I a blogger? Can I be both? *shrugs* One day I’ll figure it out.

  6. I feel a lot of that exhaustion. My favorite part of the blogging is the relationships, but the upkeep of them wears me out. I am constantly torn between the lure of the friendships (which are wonderful) and the inability to keep up with all the reading and “courting” I need to do to become “successful.” I don’t actually believe that’s success. I mean, I feel successful in my blogging now because I can write what I’m feeling in a way that makes a small group respond, and I’ve made some deep, true friends. But I can’t put in the energy and the time to become popular. Or I’m not a gifted enough writer.
    In any case, I feel ya.

  7. Ken, you might not believe it to read what I write online, but I am the archetypal introvert and like you I find the schmoozing side of blogging taxing at times. I keep up with it partly because it helps my message to reach a wider audience (and I am very passionate about my message), and partly because in my case it’s good to force myself out of my introbubble on a regular basis.

    I would have loved to have been an author when novels were just becoming a thing – mostly because I imagine readers would have been all “Oooh. NOVEL!” at whatever they saw on the shelf, thus buying and reading it for that alone. 🙂

    • I just burned out, Vince. You see me now as a tired, broken, burned out, cynical person. I did all the courting, once. I just haven’t the energy for it anymore. But you’re right. I need to break out of my bubble.

      • I never said you needed to – only that I found it beneficial. Perhaps what you actually need is to become a hermit! But if you do, just bear in mind the words of the late, great Terry Pratchett: “People who don’t need people need other people around to KNOW that theya re the kind of people who don’t need people.” Also “There’s no point in freezing your nadgers off on some mountain while communing with the Infinite unless you can count on a lot of impressionable young women to come along occasionally and say ‘Gosh’.” 😉

  8. We connect better with real. We just do. It’s a human thing, I think.

    Suck it and see. If it doesn’t work, try something else. You are nothing if not creative.

  9. What’s in a name? I read you for your thoughts. To quote the bard again, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. You are, to me, the same dear, snarky, sparky person I’ve enjoyed over the years.

  10. I love this space, whatever it is, and whoever you are. It’s a joy to come here. I hope that heartens you.

  11. So much of this sounds so familiar, says she who is not Freya IRL. Funny how I see you as very successful, and year’s that not how you feel. Me and The Man (terrible grammar, I know) were having a very similar conversation in the wee small hours about how we feel about ourselves is often diametrically opposite to the regard in which we are held.

    Whatever you decide to do, do what you need to do for you, for your health, for your happiness.

  12. I wish I could find the magic voodoo water that brings legions of readers and success. I look at it this way: Every time I make new words, they reach a few more people. Most people don’t care. They won’t ever read them. But a few more people do. Eventually, someone is going to find my words, and that person or group is going to change things for me. If I don’t show up, if I don’t try, I’ll never find that person or group.

    May this be a sustainable path for you to create. You’re a gifted man, Ken. Own that truth in your soul, because if you believe it, you no longer need to care what anyone else thinks.

  13. I actually thought you had put Helena aside and was just keeping Dana’s beautifully worked avatar. I honestly thought you had turned a corner when you “revealed” yourself as Ken, as the man behind the magic. Helena IS a character that you’ve used to channel your stories. You don’t need to do that anymore if you don’t want to. What really bothers me is this: “(Yet I still hate my face, my name, who I am and where I come from).” Your wife and daughters love your face, right? You can always legally change your name if you hate it so much. Those of us who are not happy with where we came from just try focus instead on where we want to go. Sorry if I’m being tough, but I’ve been where you are. I won’t say that I don’t ever still have those feelings of hate for myself, but I believe I have a right to live and do what I really want to do. It’s taken years to get here, but I have a supportive partner. He is worth more to me than 10,000 followers. Feelings of self-hate just get in the way. You may never be fully free of those feelings, but don’t let them stop you from pursuing what you really want for yourself. And I, for one, love your face 🙂

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