Thursday, August 5, 2010

Words Hurt

Authorial license.  I claim it often because it makes me seem like a big shot and why wouldn't I have a right to claim other people's stories, histories, emotions and memories as my own?  I haven't scaled a mountain but why should that mean I can't pen a short story about it?

However, whether we want to admit it or not there are boundaries.  I think we forget that sometimes, at least I have in the past.  I often view myself as the silent voyeur, someone who's removed from the situation and is simply present to observe and take note of it.  But when that situation is closely linked to your family, your friends, really anyone you know and respect, you have to decide if your license has expired.

Words hurt.  People can quickly take them out of context or take them exactly the way you deliver them.  Suddenly you're no longer the talented writer but the exploitative a-hole who used to have friends.  It's important to take this in consideration before sending work out for contests or to publishers.

I'm not one for censoring but sometimes a little discretion goes a long way.

How do you discern between a creative piece and one that may be exploitative?  Have you've ever had to deal with offending a friend or family member with something you've written?


  1. I wrote a short story that I was thinking I would submit. I happen to ahve my mom read it first, and without realizing it, I had given one of the characters some of her less flattering characteristics. She was not happy. I scrapped that story and have tried being much more aware of attributes and activities I'm including.

  2. I did a blog post about an ex-boyfriend *just* after I'd friended him on FB, and he hasn't spoken to me since. I'd thought I'd done an ok job of focusing on my feelings about the breakup, but I think it pissed him off anyway.

    so difficult - the impulse to write about what you know, but make it anonymous enough to not be hurtful.

  3. I haven't written anything fiction wise that would fall into this category. But I stay away from family/marriage venting posts on my blog for that reason. I don't want to hurt feelings intentionally or unintentionally.

  4. A little off topic, but a relevant story.

    As a speech therapist, I often use word jumbles to help with organization and word retrieval. In this exercise, the category was "Things that are sharp" and the jumble was O-S-R-W-D.

    My patient first said, "Words."

    "No," I answered. "Words aren't sharp."

    And then I thought about it and realized that words, some words, may be the sharpest things of all.

  5. Yes, many times. Since I suck at personal confrontation (I'm not afraid of it and could make even the most boisterous Brooklyn Italian cry), I have written letters to friends when an issue needed to be addressed.

    Should have saved the ink and just opened my mouth. I need to cap it, and cap it well. Words do hurt, and I think when written down the malignancy is more profound. A hot-tempered fight is one thing, but to actually write something down? Major thought has gone into that. Sort of like premeditated murder vs. manslaughter.

  6. Wow. An "exploitative a-hole." I hear this, sister. I use my blog as a journal of sorts and am sort of thankful that my sisters, brother and other fam members don't read it. As a rule, I try not to talk about family or work- but I guess it all bleeds in there from time to time. Thanks for the reminder!

  7. Nobody reads my stuff so I don't know if I'm offending or not. :)Ha

  8. I know. Goes for blogging, too. I read posts where I think, "good luck patching that relationship up now."

    People have to think...

  9. I think that if it feels like therapy to write about it, then it's probably not a creative piece. I think we all know when we haven't gotten enough distance from something to be able to write about it subjectively.

    Didn't someone say that humour = tragedy + distance? Or did I make that up? If I did, then I'm way smarter than I thought. (Kidding. I really didn't make that up).

  10. this is a tough one for me. My family has does not share my values and they are very different from me on political and religious issues. Most everything that I write that concerns my values is offensive to my family. At some point I have to decide how much I will allow them to dictate the contents of my blog. How can I put ME in my blog without my values?

  11. I am perhaps too sensitive to others' feelings. There are SO many things I want to write that I do not for fear that I will regret sharing these stories with the world. It's a tough line to cross.

  12. love reading your responses! it's incredible to see the different boundaries we set for ourselves. we're as different as our writing styles and i completely respect that. i'm really happy to have met such an eclectic and well-versed group of writers. :)

  13. I just don't show them if it's too truthful and mean. If it's simply kind of based on them, I may warn the person, but...I dunno. I don't even talk to the people who could potentially show up as horrible in my works.

  14. I've always wondered how novelists deal with this - having a family member or friend say "hey, that's me!" It scares me a great deal, and makes me edit myself, a lot. I usually mine nice little nasty habits from people no longer in my world. Sadly, I have plenty to choose from.

    As far as my blog, my first one was a pseudo, which my in laws happened to stumble upon after peeking over my shoulder one Holiday weekend. I had to clean it up quickly, which is a shame, because those two provide me with plenty of material - nothing hateful, just quirks. Since then, and since I now show my face, I no longer use anyone who I actually know for blog fodder. Bonus for not hurting feelings = having to be more creative.



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