And Third is the One with the Hairy Chest! Who remembers that little nugget of childhood taunting? Today we’re talking about a different taunt…the little gnawing guilt that keeps you from beginning to write. Let’s be done with it–shall we?
I often hear the same old lament. “I really want to write these stories, but “What if” someone get’s angry? feels hurt? sues me? disowns me?” To this I say “phooey!” You can write around any person, subject or facet of a family with ease. The same way that in polite conversation you would “drop the subject” you leave the story out of your writing.
But be sure that you do write it. As a matter of fact, I recommend that you write the worst first!
You need to write that potentially harmful part of the story, as a separate chapter, or a stand alone piece. Just because it is hurtful and threatening to Aunt Millie in the here and now, does not mean that a generation or two from now anyone would even “ bat an eye at it.”
Here’s the reason for writing the bad ones and getting them over with; the ones that scare you, the gut-punchers, the flagrantly embarrassing or unspeakably heartbreaking, dumbfounding and inexcusable ones. Write the story that will hold the most danger for you…and then suddenly, when you finish it up, study the words on the typed page like any other piece of text made from combinations of our only available 26 letters, you will then be free to go on.
You may file it away then to let it heal and breath in its own little file sleeve or Dropbox folder. Once it’s out, like the splinter as the source of a festering wound…nothing else can be threatened by it. You’ve worked your way through it; now let the tale breathe in private until a newer day dawns.
Do not let the good stories be held hostage by the regretted actions of someone else!
You won’t’ even have to leave the person or event out, just leave their page blank on your “shared copy” for now.
Does this sound harsh? I hope not. When we worry about how our writing might affect certain people, we create a creative dam within ourselves. By plowing through that worrisome story, we effectively take it out of the equation, and then all the other rich and sparkling stuff can flow freely. When the time or opportunity or the lense of seeing the wider picture falls into place, you can crack open that file and decide again…let it out? …keep it in a little longer? It really won’t matter. What will matter is the enormous amount of energy you will have available to write the hundreds of other things down that everyone will be so excited for and so eager to learn. Get the “worst” out of the way. They’re not worth the blocked energy that cause you to never get started.
Sometimes of course there is more at hand than what just looks like pride. There are layers and layers of secrets.
My good friend Jacky is one of the happiest women I know. Jacky had been raised knowing her entire life that she was an adopted child. Imagine her surprise about 2 years ago when she found out that she was one of 9 children. She was actually #6 in line from an in-tact family that had always thought they were a brood of “only” 8 children! Apparently when Jacky’s mother was pregnant with a 6th child, she suffered some emotional problems (with 5 kids under 5 and another in the oven, I would have been living in a tree somewhere). She ran off to another town and stayed away from her husband and children with an elderly aunt until the baby was born. Baby Jacky was put up for adoption, and the mother spent a few extra weeks away recovering. Once she felt stronger, she returned to her husband and their hoard of small children and never mentioned the baby she had given birth to while she was away to anyone. She even went on to have three more children with her husband.
Fifty years later, Jacky’s birth mother began acting strangely; losing things, personality changes, forgetfulness. It soon became apparent that she was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.The oddest part was her constant insistence that she had 9 children.
As the disease progressed, many defensive filters dissolved and she spoke more and more often about her 6th baby, a little girl. This became such an issue that finally the family searched along side an adoptions specialist and found Jacky, the baby daughter who was #6 (not poor Bill who had grown up thinking he was 6th in line) was real!
Within 48 hours, Jacky traveled to Cleveland and met a whole new batch of family, including her very ill but overjoyed birth mother.
Oh I am not naive. I know that there are other, darker stories out there. But if you can prove them, like a good genealogist, write them down and then put them away in a file. Someone in the next generation when we are all gone may have a much better understanding of why we chose to live as we did.
What ever you do, don’t let the “worst ones” stop you before you even start! Fire up the laptop, sharpen your pencil, grab your beverage of choice and right here, right now, write your dirtiest family dirt and be done with it. I guarantee this will give you the guts to have some fun and to start writing the good stories!