“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
Every writer I know loves this quote from writer Annie LaMott. We do own our experiences and we absolutely write about them, at least in my genre, which is first person essay and memoir.
At the same time, speaking our truth can be expensive. We must be willing to pay the price.
The pen is mightier than the sword.
Work on my memoir stalled when I asked my husband if it would bother him if I wrote about certain things. He said it would. I chose to not go forward with the work I had begun.
Several years later he broached the subject with me and said that he was now ok with my writing about those things. What a huge gift–and what a mature guy.
“When you are emotionally attached to a subject, your writing can be transcendent,” he told me. I mean. Who wouldn’t want their husband to think that about their work? And to be so supportive. Big enough to accept he might not look so good in parts of my writing. (Not that I look that good, either.)
But not everyone feels that way.
I’m working on a performance piece that is told through someone else’s story. It’s deeply personal to that person. I have not asked permission, but they do know I am writing it. I have no idea how it will end up–it may be nothing more than a long writing exercise. But I’ve had to think through the cost of actually producing something so personal, and I don’t mean financial. Because I do want to protect them. Lamott might not agree. But that is how I roll.
And then, here’s the other thing. There are people in every writer’s life who thinks they are the subject of a piece when in fact, they are not. Call it guilty conscience, or maybe ego. Some people think they are the center of a writer’s universe. And yes, sometimes they ARE being written about. But other times? No. They aren’t even a passing thought in a piece. Because life is full of universal moments. Nothing that has happened to us is unique–it’s happened or is happening to others right this very minute. So now, it’s not all about any individual at all. It’s usually about the universal.
Oh and also this: most of my blog posts were written at least a month and often even more before I hit “publish.” Sometimes a year ago. They are usually not related to what’s happening now.
One of the things I love so much about bestie and her family is that they are all writers and they all do write about one another. And have even written about me. And me about them.
You really haven’t lived until you see a play in which you are referred to as a neurotic bitch. Especially if you ARE one! Yes, that was me, and that was one of bestie’s plays. We writers? We are pretty ok with being written about. Because if we weren’t, we’d have to lay down our pens. What’s good for the goose, and all that.
So here’s what I have to say about it: I’m not writing about you. Or maybe i am. But probably not when you think I am.
Healing and condolence gifts can make a huge difference. Find some beautiful gifts at A Healing Spirit right here.