I got some good news this week about something I'll be writing, which I will share when it's published, but in a nutshell, it's about sex (shocking, I know!). Specifically, sex with my boyfriend, aka the person I plan to spend the rest of my life with. This is by far the longest relationship I've ever been in; last week we celebrated three and a half years together, and it's therefore also the relationship I've written about the most.
Over the years, I've covered whether my having two Hitachi Magic Wand vibrators is bad for our relationship and what I've learned falling for a fat man, as well as multiple pieces in my ebook Sex & Cupcakes: A Juicy Collection of Essays. But it doesn't really get easier to tell the person you love, "By the way, I'm going to be writing about our sex life for a national publication." Or about other aspects of our life. Yet that's what I do, both to make a living, and because it's an intrinsic part of who I am, how I make sense of and process my world, how I figure out what I think and how I share and connect my experiences with others'.
The greatest thing he's ever given me isn't the Georgia O'Keeffe print of my favorite of her paintings, or the stuffed animal he won me one an epic Jersey Shore boardwalk date, or the other stuffed animal that I sleep with that he surprised me with, or the time he impromptu booked us a staycation at our favorite NYC hotel. It's been rolling with the fact that I write about my life, and by extension, his life. I try to do so with as much respect and honesty and openness as I can, but still, I know that dating me is not the same as dating someone who doesn't expose herself and various intimacies pretty much all the time.
He doesn't just roll with it, but encourages me to write, even when it's about topics that might make him uncomfortable, even though it's almost always about things he would never share publicly in a million years. He is always genuinely happy for me when I hit a career milestone, or even when I sort through all the fear and shame and neuroses in my head, which is sometimes so thick I can barely get a word onto the page and simply share whatever it is that's been circling up there, and get something out into the world.
The longer we are together, the deeper that gift resonates, because even though I don't use his full name in my writing, anyone who knows me at all well knows who he is. Yet anyone who knows me well also hopefully knows how much writing means to me, and that I would not truly be myself with it. I'm sure that doesn't necessarily make it easier to be in my boyfriend's position, and I can't emphasize enough how grateful I am that he has never told me, or even asked me, not to write something. He's never taken up my offer to vet something beforehand and has always trusted me, which is just one of the many things that makes him amazing.
This is a constant process of negotiation, though, on my part, of figuring out a) what's important enough to me to want to write about, b) what's marketable and where and in what form and c) what's mine to discuss and what's not. I don't necessarily have hard and fast answers, but I feel like it's not a coincidence that my freelance writing has soared while in this relationship, because I've had that freedom, and on a day when I am brainstorming what I will write about us in bed, I wanted to acknowledge that.
Want to know more about the ins and outs of writing very personal nonfiction about your sex life, and get my advice on how to do it ethically and profitably? I'll be talking about that and much more at my CatalystCon sex writing workshop on September 11th in Burbank, California. If you won't be at CatalystCon, stay tuned by signing up for my monthly newsletter for an upcoming online version of that class. To those who are also navigating the tricky terrain of being true to yourself in your writing while also respecting others in your life, I wish you much success, internally and externally.