You should’ve acted better!


How I write:

I start out with something on my mind. As I type, the words take shape. They meander, but somehow they all meet up in the end.

When I’m finished, I read back what I wrote and I often cannot believe that I was the person who strung those words together, the one who had those thoughts.

Not because I think they’re anything incredible, but because I’m not always sure where they came from. It’s a weird feeling, as though my brain is telling my fingertips what to do, but leaving the rest of me out of the process.

I’ve lately really wished that my strength in writing wasn’t so personal. That my voice didn’t ring out the best when I am writing about the often mundane things that happen to me. I’m so glad to help people, but I’m also acutely aware that I’ve hurt people along the way (and that’s with being very careful).

At a writing workshop recently, I was with a bunch of memoirists and we talked about this quote by author Anne Lamott who said,

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better.”

For whatever reason, during this workshop all sorts of stuff about my father started coming up. This is difficult for me, as it would be for most anyone who has a strained or non-existent relationship with an immediate family member.

The guilt of it is sometimes crippling, the wonder and the worry and the (at least perception of) judgment.

And, I want to write about it. I’m pretty sure I’m ready. I want to help other people who are making similar decisions and having to live with them.

But, in order to do this, I’d have to share personal things about my family. Personal things that are from MY perception only, and to them might not be their truth. I’d have to tell things that could cause more hurt and pain, even though that is not my intention. I actually don’t blame anyone. Dysfunction is just that–dysfunction.

My life is just a compilation of stories. Stories that I can make interesting. Stories that I can weave into something that comments on our humanity, or our choices, or helps us feel less alone.

Yet, I hesitate. Although I swear I am not a hateful person, but I’m sure I do end up hurting people by telling my stories. I just want to help lift people up, but not at the expense of others. I am definitely not as confident as Anne Lamott, as you can see. 🙂  Also, I make mistakes ALL THE TIME. We all do. I certainly wouldn’t want to be called out in print (which I have done before, to people I love, in a very general way but still-boy, did I mess up).

What do you think? For writers to tell about their lives, it seems they end up throwing some people under the proverbial bus. Do we keep going? Is it worth it?

I’d love your comments!



One thought on “You should’ve acted better!

  1. I have found that like you I dream of writing, and you’ve succeeded. I know it’s possible but I also have wondered if the cost outweighed the reward. I’m estranged from my parents, it is because they behaved badly. I don’t question this choice I’ve made, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t painful at times. I’m quite curious what others feel about this!


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