Many posts in writers’ groups and questions in writerly gathering surrounds the fear of family or friends finding out what they are writing.
Surprisingly, some of these are fiction writers. Although many are memoirists, poets, fiction writers and essayists are also concerned with offending someone they know.
My response to this is: They’ll probably never recognize themselves! The truth is many people see themselves far differently than others do.
Furthermore, studies show that we remember events differently; to be more accurate, we remember different details of the same events, and our memories are not as reliable as we’d like to think.
Legally, in memoir, if names are changed, there is little a person can do if they do recognize themselves. One attorney told me: They’re welcome to write their own version of the events.
Fear should never hold a writer back. A small change in details or location can allow for some question if someone does think the story might include them.
Even if you think you’ll never publish it – write it. You’ll feel better!
Something I often hear as a counselor is clients speaking about the weight of expectations they feel they’re carrying on their shoulders; and the frustration, guilt, or resentment they feel in relation to them.
Many of these expectations are often tied to a particular role they “fall into,” that contains within it: unexamined assumptions relating to some action(s) they feel they should be doing, rules for communicating (what they feel they should be saying, and how), pressures to take on board “shared” viewpoints…
Often they express feeling as if they lost their center or connection with themselves.
Some roles are consciously/purposefully chosen. I choose to relate to clients within the boundaries of a counselors’ role. At other times, individuals can fall into an interaction where there is an expectation/pressure to engage in a “role-play”… mindlessly… pulled by some emotional pathway, deeply engraved by a lifetime’s worth of conditioning… For example, many adults continue to feel strongly affected by their parents’ perceived expectations of them…
Sometimes individuals’ roles within relationships include assumptions about hierarchy (in some cultures more than others), expectations relating to distributions of privileges, expectations relating to the division of weight that is placed on the inner experience of each individual. Often, the language which does not fit an expected role-script is unwelcome, discouraged…
One of my favorite historical examples of a figure who modeled the importance of rising beyond roles and cultural expectations, and embodied authenticity and inner strength, was Jesus. I admire the way he kept right away from describing himself via popular roles or politically loaded terms of the time, which he perceived as a poor fit with his life’s journey and purpose.
I love the way Jesus preferred to describe his inner experience and communion with God using creative metaphors-that beautifully made use of people’s familiar associations (e.g. used imagery such as harvests, laborers, etc.) yet transcended the language of the well established familiar social and political roles, traditions, expectations, and their underlying beliefs and perceptions.
Jesus had a hard time with the Pharisees. Perhaps they perceived his non-compliance with the established roles that reinforced their power and privileges-most unsettling. Jesus smacked too much of personal power, disregard for the authority of political/social pecking order…
Possibly to connect with a sense of inner peace, he was documented to withdraw into solitude oftentimes, perhaps in this way he restored his strength by nurturing his connection with God. Just as in his case, I believe that it is a helpful first step in our journey towards authenticity to find ways to connect with a loving place of self-care and strength within ourselves.
Given the powerful focus our society (and at times other people) have on trying to hijack our attention and encourage us to look to the outside of ourselves for fulfillment–creative expression of, and reflection on, our inner experience allows us to re-center and reconnect with our inner journey of transformation.
And, support us in reclaiming control over reconstructing our experience so that it resonates with our values, faith, the direction of our journey, and more closely aligns with our truth.
Many Thanks for sharing!
There’s a theory that we don’t fear failure, we fear success.
A researcher gave graduating students an impromptu essay prompt: “After finding out Joe/Jane aced their medical exams for graduation, he/she …..”
It’s reported that the vast majority of students set up a scenario in which Joe or Jane went out and partied, got in some sort of trouble, an accident, arrested, or in some cases just gave up and “decided to do something else with their lives.”
The researchers decided this was not an indication of the fear of failure, because they’d set up a scenario in which the person(Joe/Jane) had already succeeded, yet the students then wrecked the plan. Therefore, they surmised it a fear of success.
This possible fear of success comes from anxiety, which is rampant in society today. People stay where they are comfortable, where they are familiar, and their habits serve them. Moving on to the next level, success, will bring about different challenges, and the fear of the unknown wins out.
It occurs to me that this happens to writers. People write, and write, and write, but then don’t submit. Is it really the rejection they fear? or is it the success? Think of all the anxiety that comes with the next level of publishing. You’ll be expected to do well, to do it again. And, what else might change?
What do you think? What do you fear?
January 19th, is the 210th anniversary of Poe’s Birth.
Although many people are content with the reason of Poe’s continued relevance in our society is the stereotypical tortured artist. There is no doubt he was tortured, and for reasons of which we are all familiar; he was an orphan who lost every women he ever loved.
His battles with alcohol, I believe, are highly exaggerated. But it makes for a good story. I’m not saying he never drank – he drank to excess plenty of times, he may have officially been an alcoholic as we understand the word today; however, it was not a constant. There were many years through his marriage to Virginia that he did not drink or drink to excess. Before his death in 1849, he’d joined the Sons of Temperance Movement – to get people to stop drinking.
The reason Poe has remained relevant throughout the years is his work touches our deepest fears and deepest desires. He has continued to inspire other writers
and artists of all types.
He wrote far more than what we, today, consider horror. He wrote essays, literary analysis, investigative pieces. He wrote about street paving, Stonehenge, and he was inspired by what he read in newspapers. Berenice and others were inspired by stories of grave robbers in local papers.
The famed portrait of Edgar Allan Poe was taken three days after his suicide attempt in 1848.
And, Eddy, my imaginative fiction, was inspired by that suicide attempt. He bought two bottles of laudanum on a cold winter night meaning to do himself in. He’d lost Virginia and felt he had no one. (Laudanum contained opium and derivatives of morphine and codeine.)
For Poe’s Birthday, I offer an excerpt from the novella:
He stumbles from the pub, slips, and falls on the iced over bricks of Boston’s November streets. Save for the muddled voices beyond the closed door, the street is quiet as his body thuds to the ground. His breath billows in front of him as he gasps and grumbles and struggles to his knees, then his feet, to regain his drunken balance.
The gaslamp on the corner offers a wavering yellow glow for the struggling figure on the lonely winter night. Thin strands of hair blow in the chilled breeze; he runs his hands over his head, straightens himself before he pulls at the sagging overcoat and tugs it closed.
Remembering the tinctures of laudanum pried from the chary pharmacist, he hurriedly shoves his hands in his pockets, retrieves the bottles.
His heavy breath mounds in front of him and, for a moment, he can’t see; then the luminous cloud of brandy scented air dissipates. The medicines are intact. Relieved, he stuffs them back in his pocket and buttons his jacket.
“Edgar,” someone calls from the corner; the noise from the pub trails the swarthy figure out until the door slams to a close behind him. “You alright?”
Edgar waves him off without turning around.
The thick shadow chuckles as he staggers in the opposite direction.
The winter is freezing cold, but the snow hasn’t endured. Small white crystals pile in corners and fill the air. The icy rain soaks him before he reaches his chamber on the second floor of the boarding house. The room is small, impersonal, but warmer than the street. An unlit lantern shimmies on the desk as he unsteadily seats himself, glances out the window.
A barely discernable outline disquiets the otherwise muted darkness on the corner of the street below. He knows it’s the black dog that’s stalked him his whole life. Suddenly angered, he shoves himself forward, pushes the unlit lamp aside and topples the ink jar.
“Get outta here, you wretched creature.” The incensed command lost in the night.
Recovering the secreted bottles of opium from his coat pocket, he sets them side by side in front of him. Unsteadily he tugs the lid from one and snorts in a single gulp.
Much love and luck.
I hate when men write
soft poetry about their ex’s.
It’s easier to read the hate
than to let your mind wonder
“what went wrong?”
It’s easier to hear, I don’t love
than to hear I love you, but…
and the thousand buts
that say you just didn’t add up.
I mean she…
back to the poet with the soft poetry
and the lost wife.
He writes it, not to her,
but for himself,
to remind himself
of what he let go,
the additions he didn’t add in
when he was subtracting
all she didn’t have.
All the things he didn’t have
all the while he’s telling himself
he was right
to let her go
when he did
because things would have gotten worse
had they not parted before the math was done.
At least this way he can ruminate,
look back fondly and say,
we parted as friends,
I departed quietly to search for something more,
she just got hurt.
*originally published in the Northridge Review 2002.
This was written long ago, while I was finishing graduate school. I think it’s still so relatable. One person is always ready to go before the other. One person walks away, the other crawls. (But don’t worry – the one who crawls gets up, becomes stronger, and thrives!)
Much love, readers.
My Name is Vicky Mclellan, since I was young I have always wanted to be an author. But I have also faced many challenges in my life, I am Physically Disabled; my mother gave me up at the age of nine. I was raised by my Grandmother and Aunt. Even though I cannot walk, I do not let it stop me from chasing my dreams, I have Graduated High-School, and I have become a published author.
I think my motivation comes from my heartbreaks as a child. Being left behind, feeling like I was different and out of place, I want to prove that just because a person is different and has different kinds of challenges that others cannot understand, they are still worthy, they still have a voice that deserves to be heard. No matter how many tears I’ve cried through-out my life, I have never given up, because I know that I matter, others like me matter. I want other people to feel like they can reach for their dreams, no matter what walk of life they have had, or what they face. They can fight for the life they want, as long as they never give up. Waking up in the morning is half the battle – I know those words have been said many times, and it sounds like I’m just trying to fill up space, but take it from me, a person who has felt unworthy and useless many times in my life, the will to wake up everyday, sometimes takes true strength to find.
My motivation to write also comes from wanting to give others an outlet and show them that they are never alone, their dreams matter, it does get better, and there’s always somewhere constructive to vent – The Page. And that is truly my motivation. That’s what pushes me, and feeds my drive – Pushes My Pen – if You will.
I have always tried to spin my bad situations into a positive learning experience; I find writing helps me do that. Even when I write fiction, I find it helps me put things in perspective and see a situation from all sides because most of the characters I write about have a little piece of my personality in them. There’s something about seeing something written down, staring at the words, seeing part of me on that page, really helps me find myself on days when I feel lost.
I find that writing in general, has inspired me to become more creative and kept my heart alive. When you’re not mobile, its hard to find things that stimulate the mind, The world kind of gets small, and writing has opened so many doors for me, it has really helped me to open up. I hope that when others read my material, they feel that emotion and openness. My motivation as a writer is to not only show people that there is more to me than just a metal wheelchair, but to let them hear my voice and to show others that they can speak too. My message to the world is to never stop creating.
Thanks for sharing, Vicky! Much luck!