SHAMELESS: A Q&A with Author Kris Kidd

For the better half of the last decade, model and writer Kris Kidd, has been fearlessly documenting his struggles with substance abuse, eating disorders, and depression. His shameless style of confessional writing evokes a bruise, so painfully funny and self-deprecatingly sincere that it feels as though we aren’t even supposed to be reading it. His latest collection of work, #ELSEWHERE, a “clinically depressed sex column” written for Nakid Magazine, explores themes of escapism and self-harm with his trademark sense of vulnerability and dark humor.

As comes with the territory of tearing oneself open on the Internet, Kidd’s work has exposed him to a great deal of criticism as well as an outpouring of love and appreciation from like-minded young readers. In this interview, we discuss his new column, his writing process, and what it really takes to be honest with the Internet.

What was your writing process when working on #ELSEWHERE? Is there anything in particular that you did to get yourself to such an open and vulnerable place?

I’m not going to lie. It was hellacious. Like, really bad. I had the entire column outlined before I even started writing it, but I guess I hadn’t really thought the process through. All I knew was that I wanted to write about the emotional and psychological forces that drive a person to self-destruct. I’ve been writing about self-destruction for years, but I wanted to focus on the actual mentality behind it. It sounds so stupid now, but it didn’t occur to me that in order to do that, I’d have to go back and relive those feelings so vividly.

I locked myself away for a week to start writing, then that week turned into a month, then two. It took another month to edit because I was so caught up in my own head by then. I didn’t really see or talk to anyone other than my therapist. I got really caught up in it. I cried a lot, over anything and everything. It was very overdramatic. I know it’s cheesy, but I feel like the process forced me to confront a lot of trauma I had no idea I was still carrying with me. I’m glad I finished it, though. Finally turning it in was super cathartic.

Throughout the entries, you mention friends, lovers, and various members of the fashion industry— sometimes even by name. Were you ever concerned that you were writing too openly about others? How do you think those who have read the column feel about it?

No. Is that bad? I don’t know. I rarely, if ever, use names in my writing. If I do, I either change the names or I get permission from the person directly. I think I’m pretty considerate about it. A lot of the stories I wanted to tell centered around my interpersonal relationships and how I’ve navigated, or failed to navigate, them. Writing about others was unavoidable and I’m always open with my writing. Everybody in my life knows that I’m a writer. They signed up for it. Maybe I should start drafting up contracts, though. Just in case…

How do you respond to the negative criticism you receive for your writing? You’re sharing very personal life stories, after all— do you ever take it personally?

Of course I do. I take everything personally. Listen, I’d love to be one of those saints who claims to be “above” drama, and negativity, and all that… but I’m just not. At all. That being said, I’ve learned to ignore it to a certain degree. It’s not like there’s actual critics out there telling me that I’m a terrible writer. It’s usually comments and direct messages from strangers who’ve read my stuff and think I’m a terrible person. It’s really not a big deal in the grand scheme of things.

Even when dealing with very dark subject matter, the tone of your writing is often comedic— almost satirical at times. What function does humor serve in your work?

I try to laugh about everything. Not just with my writing, but with life in general. It’s kind of an addendum that I’ve made to that serenity prayer from Narcotics Anonymous. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to laugh my way through the rest of it…” Probably just another coping mechanism of mine, but it works like a charm. I swear by it.

You say that you've pretty much always been writing— do you ever revisit your past work? What kind of perspective does it provide you with?

I’m hypercritical of everything I do once I’m done with it, so I tend to steer myself away from reading almost any of my older stuff. I did go back and read old blog posts and drafts from when I was younger while writing the first few entries in the column, though. The first two are actually just more fleshed out versions of essays I’d started writing and given up on a long time ago. Rereading them threw me back into the mindset I was in at that age, which was helpful.

What do you think is the most difficult thing about confessional writing?

I’m not too sure anymore. There are a lot of pros and cons to it, and they’re all pretty dichotomous. The hardest part is probably the writing itself, actually sitting down and getting yourself to relive those moments and retell them. But when it’s all said and done, you feel a lot lighter. Like a weight’s been lifted, or whatever. It’s very therapeutic.

Looking back on #ELSEWHERE, is there anything you feel you’ve left out or held yourself back from sharing? If not, surely there must have been times in which you hesitated. What do you think it is that allowed you to keep charging ahead?

I really tried to be as honest as I possibly could. I think that’s what made it such an intense process to get through. As human beings, we want to defend ourselves and rationalize our actions. Even though the intent of the column was to shed light on the mentality behind bad behavior, I never wanted to make excuses for it. That was a tough balance to negotiate. I was constantly catching myself adding in unnecessary details to make myself seem more redeemable, which wasn’t what I set out to do. I wanted to explain my thought processes, the actions they led to, and the aftermath of those actions. I think I stayed true to that. If I held anything back, it was an invitation to a pity party I had no intention of throwing in the first place.

The column ended on quite an abrupt note. None of the issues you addressed seemed to be resolved, and it felt as though there wasn't any wrap up. Was this a deliberate choice? And if so, what was the reasoning behind it?

Originally, that entry ended with the line, “Regret, albeit raw and relentless, is almost always unremarkable.” It felt like the thesis of the column as a whole. The additional line you’re referring to was a pretty last minute decision, actually. And I knew that it was going to upset some of the people who’d been reading the column from the beginning, but I stand by it. Self-sabotage is a really powerful thing, and I don’t necessarily think it makes you a bad person. You know that what you’re doing is wrong, even while you’re doing it, and you just keep going.

How much time has passed since the events that took place in that last entry and now? Has anything changed for you in that time period?

That one is probably the most fractured and disjointed of all the entries, but it is the most recent. The phone call that takes place at the beginning happened around October or November of last year if I remember correctly. The rest of the vignettes are events that all took place between then and February, when I was already writing the column. Since then, I’ve been taking everything I learned from writing it, all the triggers and the patterns I saw in my behavior, and trying to sort through that stuff in therapy. The column really pushed me to want to make some changes for the better.

Where does one go after having been elsewhere? What’s your next move?

Well, all that being said, there’s probably still tons of therapy ahead for me. In regards to writing, I’ve decided I want to try and make the transition into fiction. I think it’s the best decision for me, both creatively and mentally. Nobody can stay “elsewhere” forever. I’m currently enrolled at UCLA, and I’m taking their creative writing extension program. I’m workshopping my first novel, I guess. It’s a whole different world, maybe just somewhere else, another sort of elsewhere, but I’m excited about it.

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