“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better.” – Anne Lamott
I’ve been thinking of this quote a lot lately. Fundamentally, I agree with it. I have the right to tell people exactly as they are. However, I usually don’t exercise that right. I try only to tell the bad parts that are essential. I attempt to show mercy in my writing, with the sole exceptions of my father and stepmother. While I cannot make shallow, empty people whole and self-actualized in my writing, I can choose not to write about them or to minimize what I say.
Lamott’s quote clearly does not apply to children. I do sometimes write about other people’s children, but very carefully. It’s even more complicated with my own children, who I can promise you often should behave better. (It’s called a fork.) I started this blog to write honestly about parenting, but I no longer can. I no longer should. I won’t get into the recently-published book that is prompting this post, but I’m sure you’ve seen it. I can’t sell my kids out for 15 minutes of fame.
I’m not a big-name blogger, but I have enough of a readership that I must be careful with what I write not about just my kids but about my husband, the parents of my children’s friends, and my colleagues. This is a shift that has taken place over the last few years, and it means my posts are more guarded.
I don’t like writing that way. I want to tell the truth, even if I do tell it slant like the other Emily suggests.
Memoir has come to feel far too limiting for me. I’ve been working to expand the way I approach personal essays, yet those are still in the realm of memoir. My professional writing – which is incredibly rewarding – is of a different sort, but my creative work… Well, let’s just say I’m trying to grow my practice. It’s one of those things we say these days.
Don’t worry, this isn’t one of those swansong posts. I’m not going the way of Car Talk. I like having this room of my own, where I can say what I want without the guy paying my invoice having a say.
I’m curious how others walk the line between open dialogue and invading other people’s privacy.