More Writing, More Insights

Even if the thing I’m working on doesn’t end up having any value as literature, it’s uncovering no end of fertile ground for me. In about an hour of writing over the past three days, I’ve found at least three things that lead me to believe that I may need to return to therapy, plus things are spilling into my straightforward narrative that I didn’t think were related, but clearly are.

And don’t even get me started on all the stuff it’s leading me to examine as a writer. I’ve got process improvements aplenty on the way for this. I wasn’t even rereading, but found myself walking around thinking “too much telling, not enough showing!” “Don’t describe a conversation, here, show the conversation!” “Maybe you could start it there, but you’re going to have to loop back and get x, y, and z in there, if you’re going to do it right.” I’m ordering special notebooks and don’t you worry— I’mma fix this whole thing right up.

So here’s a question for those of you who write under your own names, you brave souls: have you had to wade through backlash of people who’ve (correctly or incorrectly) identified themselves in your writing? Has your writing affected your relationships, or have I listened to Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” a time or two too many?

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3 thoughts on “More Writing, More Insights

  1. Well, I’ve not had this happen before, to be honest, but, that may be because I really do my best to avoid writing about humans I actually know, because, well, I’m a freaking coward, and avoid writing about the very things that actually have meaning or make me vulnerable, and that’s in part because I know anything I write about certain things will make them upset, and it’s not worth it to me at this point. There are things my sister has written that have hurt my mother really, really bad. But, then most of what my sister writes is so fully of judgmental righteousness that she wouldn’t have to be my sister for it to make me upset. Maybe one day.

    Ironically, the stories where I am the most, shall I say, “human” get the most/best feedback, but, they are so difficult for me. And, it’s sometimes why I’ve got so many half-finished things. Sometimes it hurts to much to get to the next point, or there’s not a way to conclude it satisfactorily. Or, I remember I theoretically am supposed to write a humor column.

    Although, now I’m thinking about it a bit more, I’ve mentioned mom/sisters/dad some in a few places, but, they’ve never really felt offended by things I wrote, they enjoyed them. Maybe it’s because there is context, and I’m really not doing much more than superficially characterizations or labels.. I don’t know. I still avoid it. That’s.. bundled with my own issues, as well as not wanting to stir things up.

    I did once write a story, and changed the person’s gender, because none of that mattered to the story. I have also embellished in ways that even if the referenced person read it (aka a person who I don’t even know by name) they’d not recognize themselves, because the most “obvious” characteristics I’ve given them I completely made up. (My neighbor who is a bit creepy, but is probably not a serial killer, does NOT mow in the winter.)

    However, I’ve had other things that got weird, totally unexpected reactions from audience. In fact, I’m rarely ever right about which ones will resonate or that people will like.

    Like, my column on Potlucks. Someone thought it was anti-feminist, and “set women’s rights back 50 years.” No idea I had that much power.

    And, more recently, the anniversary column? One of my coworkers thought I was lamenting my work situation, and offered comforting encouragement to me after reading it, telling me that “he knew exactly what I was meaning with it, and that there would be something good for me soon.” And I have no idea what he thought I was meaning. My sister read it and said “I have no idea what he thought you were meaning, either.” I guess, it was nice to get encouragement, but, it was also very confusing. I simply thanked him. But, I’m still pondering that one. Clearly.

    • Interesting. This is part of my desire to draw a line between who I am and what I make— I believe that people bring their own stuff to what they read, and you can’t control what they do with it. As someone who has analyzed literature (and art and architecture), I know there have been times when I’ve found it difficult to resist psychoanalyzing the artist from their art, and other times when I’ve found it easy to draw that line.

      With that said, when I’ve been published (not counting online), it’s been in my own name, and nothing bad has come of it. My poetry does not mean to people who read it exactly what it meant to me when I wrote it, and I find that pretty easy to navigate.

      I think I’m going to assume that the difference between me and my ex-SIL is the time. That was pre-ubiquitous Internet, in a time when people were not so distracted and did not wear their busy-ness like such a badge of honor. I will cross bridges regarding “what will they think?!” if and when I get there. I will assume that most of this, much like 99% of my fiction, will never see the light of day, I will tell the truth, and I will protect it in the event that I decide to send it out into the world. Not like the publishing process is instantaneous— I’ll have time to go back and change what I need to if it comes to that, if that doesn’t happen naturally through writing and revising..

      • Yeah, I think that’s fair. I certainly think too much about what I can and can’t put out there.. My boss at work somehow found out about the column and joined the list, and so I keep absolutely mum about all the crap going on at work, which is stuff that’s been affecting me in many ways, and it’s the very thing i can’t wrestle with in public writing.

        As you say, too, much of this will never see the light, but, it gives me a raw material to hone chunks of things, and sometimes they get re-purposed into something completely unrelated, when the image or the picture they paint is useful. Or, I learn something from the construction that gets used elsewhere.

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