Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Writing That Hurts Others

The scripture verse in today's poster has a powerful message given to us in a few words. One of the first thoughts I had was that the pen is also a small thing but it, too, can do enormous damage.

A writer I know wrote a wonderful personal essay--lyrical prose at its best with a strong message. But she mentions a few of her family members in a negative vein. Her question to a group of us was whether or not she should show it to said family members prior to submitting it for publication or should she submit it and let them see it after it was published. Her aim was not to hurt these people but she knew they might take it as such. The general consensus among the group of writers she polled was that she should submit it without showing it to the people who are indicated in the essay. She does not use specific names just a general description such as 'my cousin.'

Many writers face a similar dilemma. We want to tell the story as it happened but we also don't want to hurt members of our family or close friends. I know there are writers who go ahead and write what they want to about anyone they know. They have an I don't care what they think! attitude. It's obviously their choice but I wonder how many friendships they lose or family members they never hear from again. There's a quote moving around the internet that says something like we should have lived better lives if we didn't want someone to write about us. Nothing like reversing the blame!

What you write can do damage if you don't get the facts straight. If you think you know something happened and write about it but then someone questions your stance, you might end up in a lot of trouble, even a court of law. Check and recheck to make sure you have everything correct.

Some writers tell stories about family members without any intention of hurting them. But we don't know how someone else might look at what we've written. It's all in the perception. When you write about people you know, step back and try to read it as objectively as possible before you decide to submit for publication.

My father was a very difficult man to live with, even though he had many good qualities. Some of the hardest times of my life happened because of his reaction to a situation. I had a love/hate relationship with him from childhood on. It's confusing when you're a child and it's frustrating and aggravating when an adult.I felt the need to write about many of the unhappy events but I refrained from doing so until both my parents had passed on. I could not take the chance of hurting them by publicizing family matters. That was not my intent but they might have taken it that way. I needed to write about it as a release and a healing process for myself. So, I waited.

Think about who you might offend with what you have written before you submit for publication. In my writer friend's case cited above, most of the respondents urged her to submit without showing the essay to the family members. They mentioned that it was unlikely the people would read the publication it lands in anyway. Unless the author chooses to show it to them after publication. Another dilemma!

Keep the power of the pen in mind. It can change the world. It can warm the heart. It can damage relationships. It's in your hand.


  1. I have the same dilemma. I have refrained from writing about my ex and my father because I don't have many good things to say. Even though my father has passed away, my children have a good opinion of him and I would hate to change that by writing negatives. There is a lot to think about in this post.

    1. Maybe you could explain to your children that you have a need to write about your father. You could tell them that he had some troublesome qualities as well as the many good ones they remember. If they are adults, they would hopefully understand. But each situation is different and only the writer can determine what should be done. From personal experience, I can honestly say that it helped me a lot.

  2. HI Nancy, This makes me think of a lesson my Mama told her six kids often: "If you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all.". Your writing here gave me a lot to think about.
    I also enjoyed reading your "BIO" where I learned you have several publishings in Chicken those books and have many different ones in my library. I hope you will follow my blog and I look forward to reading your future posts.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Joan. I'd love to take a look at your blog but you didn't leave the address. Can you send it to me via the comment box?