: views from the Hill

Friday, August 11, 2006

Put it in writing, or not ...

Found an interesting bit of commentary today as I was wandering the Web.

How did I get there? I was searching for information on Arthur Edward Waite and Aleister Crowley because of a comment someone made in misc.writing. There was a click in the article to /writing style/ and I, of course, clicked it.

The article starts thusly

Thumper's mom said "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all", but I would advise differently.

I am not referring here to the various ways one may dis the outside world: slandering celebrities, critiquing art, stating political convictions. What I am saying here is if you can't write something nice about someone you care about, just don't write anything.

Somewhat anathema to the spirit of Everything, I do firmly believe this admonition when talking trash about friends, family or people you care about. It's something anyone with friends who read their nodes should take *very* seriously.

If someone you love has done something that you do not approve of, if they irritate you in one way or another and you simply have to get it off your chest but don't want to let on to the person you are angry or upset, then go right ahead. Make sure they are out of earshot and say it. Yell it out loud. Scream it. Pound your chest, if you need to.

But don't write it down. Once an idea is recorded, whether on paper or digitally, you won't know whose eyes may someday read your thoughts. The pen is mightier than the sword, they say, and it's true. The written word hurts much more than any spoken one, and if what you say is nasty, untrue or out of character, it will do nothing but reflect badly on you.

The writer continues on with a personal story of how something she'd written and planned to destroy (but didn't) fell into her grandparents' hands and broke her grandparents' hearts.

I've been thinking on all this lately but from a different angle, not the "I'm so angry at his nibs because he is such a freaking sock dropper" [disclaimer: he isn't] sort of writing. I've been thinking about the balance between dishing honest guts -- which takes guts, you're exposing yourself, after all -- and writing Ms Sweetness and Light when crappy things are happening or have happened in the past, solely because of concerns with how family and friends will feel if you lay it all out there.

No James Frey here. No narcissistic stories of snorting lines and waking up in a jail, not knowing where I am. No, that's not what I'm talking about.

But what-if, what if un-sunny things are happening in your life and you are stressed all out of shape. What if your favorite great-aunt has been diagnosed with inoperable cancer and has less than six weeks and no money to provide her care in her final days and you are stressing over how to help.

What if stuff like this is happening, affecting you deeply, and you want to write about it, but your nearest and dearest want you to keep your mouth (and fingers) shut and not write a line about "private, family business."

"Why would you write about that?"

"Why did you write about that?"

"You aren't going to write about that, are you?"

What's wrong with writing, "My great-aunt's terminally ill and I'm falling to pieces, crying at the drop of a hat." (She's not. I don't even know of any living great-aunts, for that matter.) What's wrong with writing about her when who she was to me is why I'm crying at the drop of a hat?

Should I not write anything about family matters? Should I write about my life only after carefully carving all that family stuff out? Does my family get a bye? Always? Altogether? What if the person I'm writing about wouldn't mind, but another family member does?

A writer I know told me an uncle was very upset about a memoir he'd written, because in the book he'd talked about being gay. The uncle was upset because he didn't want people knowing he had a gay nephew. Well, it was a memoir, for pete's sake. I guess the writer could've just cut out chunks of his life story, but why should he? To soothe an uncle who didn't want to be embarrassed by him?

Weird, huh?

I'm not talking about writing the sort of stuff the poster referenced above is talking about. I'm not talking about dissing sibs or parents or relatives. I'm not talking about writing out my anger because I'm afraid to tell someone to their face.

No. That's not what I'm talking about.

I don't know.

So I Google'd /writer family upset guts writing/ and found this.

The author says,

How can I grant myself the freedom to write and publish honestly, while making sure those I care about don't feel as if I've done them a disservice?

Do you write about things that are affecting you personally? Do you spill your guts in public or on paper or both, or do you keep the guts wrapped up and show just the sweetness 'n' light?

Should you?

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