How Personal is Too Personal?

For those of you not closely following my project, I’ve recently decided to stretch the limits of my new project’s relationship to its predecessor in exchange for a more personal approach which, as it turns out, is a lot better suited to writing lyrics. Essentially, before this I was trying to lyrically represent my original project’s thesis directly, which required writing about someone else’s experiences and not by own, and now I have moved on to lyrically representing a variation on the original piece’s theme that I personally can relate to. For such an artistic medium, this definitely works better, but it has presented a fairly unprecedented problem…

Personal writing kind of encompasses a lot of personal content. That sentence sounds like maybe the most obvious and redundant thing I could write, but honestly, in this academic setting, it’s kind of important to consider, because a lot happens in our personal lives that can’t necessarily be constricted into academic settings. Even in this rather unconventional class this rings true – yes, I’ve found myself free to incorporate elements like cuss words and vague allusions to my weekend plans into this piece, but there are still things that I just don’t want to/feel comfortable sharing with the class and/or school and/or world that I suddenly feel like I should be including in this more personal work.

The new project is discussing money and art, and the pitfalls therein. There are a lot. But one I hadn’t even considered until this morning is that so many performers operating under this genre have little to lose. They’ve grown up in an environment with so few opportunities and such (unjustly) low expectations that they don’t need to watch what they say, and can bare every aspect of their soul, regardless of the implications therein. Of this I am envious. Because as a student at the University of Michigan, who is writing this not even as a hobby but as a project, I certainly feel limited to what I’m able to express, because I absolutely need to consider its potential effects on my future.

Now I do not want this to be misconstrued as any sort of devaluation of the privilege conversation, because I know of far too many examples of white dudes arguing that it’s harder to be white and privileged than black and not because the formers’ expectations are higher or some bullshit like that. That’s not what I’m trying to get at, at all. It’s just a roadblock that I never thought I would come up against: while I’m finding it easier to write this project from a personal perspective, it’s almost become harder in it’s own right. Weird shit.

2 thoughts to “How Personal is Too Personal?”

  1. Hi Chad, I think you’re absolutely right. Writing in first person is a huge risk to take. When you insert yourself into the text, you, as a person, becomes subject to the reader’s criticism. But I am a personal believer in healthy risk taking. Sometimes you never know how well something is going to turn out until you take a leap of faith.
    I also think it’s completely reasonable to be cognizant and concerned of (perhaps unintentionally) comparing your own privilege to others. I like to think of Macklemore in some instances. I am definitely not an expert on his music, but it’s my understanding that he consciously deals with these dilemmas in constructing his music. It might be interesting to do a little digging into his work….(?)

  2. Hey Chad,

    It sounds like this project has transitioned through some revelations. Rap is one of those genres that historically has required a great deal of heart and soul to be poured in. There are plenty of artists who do not seem to make it personal or soulful, but even they, as you say, are speaking about their life experiences. If they aren’t, then they are using their role in a social group as a leverage to play on other people’s preconceived notions of that social group. That is another topic in itself I suppose… Either way, while you may not have exactly the same experiences as many rappers, and while you may just be a white guy from the University of Michigan, that doesn’t mean you should feel wary about expressing you opinions. Certainly expressing personal struggles and experiences is different from devaluing others’, so long as you are honest. I think. I wish you good luck as you continue to realize more about yourself and the nature of your genre going forward. Obviously, you are learning a lot.

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