Truth is the slipperiest creature I know. I just wrote a long(ish) blog entry, complete with pictures and nostalgia, about my favourite ever Christmas present. Then I deleted it.
It’s so tricky when you write about real things, about real people. Even if you’re saying nice things about them, it’s never quite clear what you should share and what is best kept to yourself. Or at least, it’s never clear for me.
We were pretty poor when I was a kid. That’s a fact. We never went hungry, but money was tight and there are a lot of stories in there, but are they mine to tell? Is it really fair for me to talk about what it was like growing up? That doesn’t just affect me, but my whole family. Just because I feel comfortable talking about that, does it mean I can? That I should? What about my siblings? My parents? My extended family? When I tell my story I’m also touching on theirs.
In the case of the blog entry about my favourite Christmas gift, I loved the present because I could see how much love and thought had gone into buying it for me. I could see how proud the person giving it to me was because they thought they’d gotten me the thing I wanted most in the world. They were wrong, they’d misunderstood what I asked for, but it didn’t matter to me. In that case it really was the thought that counted and that ‘wrong’ present meant more to me than the ‘right’ one ever could have because I saw the love behind it. Still, I’d never told that person they’d bought me something other than what I asked for. If they read this blog and found out, would it hurt their feelings or would they be happy to know I saw their motivations, their love, on thier face and it made that gift mean the world to me? I didn’t have the answers, and I don’t want to hurt anyone, so I’m keeping that story to myself.
But then, what if I want to tell a story, a different story, about when I was a kid? What if I want to talk about elementary school, or junior high? What if our family situation touches on those things (because dude, how could it not?) how do I know what’s okay? How do I decide when it’s okay to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and when to pretty it up a bit? What if I want to talk about the less than shiny parts of our family? No one’s perfect, and certainly no family is. That’s part of my story, is it okay to share it?
I don’t know the answers, but I’m starting to ask the questions. I think, for now, I’m just going to have to keep feeling my way through, one story at a time and really take a hard look at my motivations for sharing each. I don’t want to hurt anyone, so that’s the only way I know to go. But in the end, it’s my story too, so I think I have a right to share if I want to.
Mostly I write fiction, so this doesn’t become a giant problem, but who I am, what I’ve known and expierenced, they all inform my writing, so even in fiction, it’s important, I think, that I consider these things.
Cheerful thoughts leading into Giftmas, eh?
I suspect the holidays are greatly to blame for my thoughts heading down this road, as is work on CONSEQUENCE which takes place in a small town much like the ones where I grew up in.* Sure, we didn’t have genies, but in a way, small towns are like families. They have secrets, they have truths and they have ways of functioning that are unique to them. I’m not trying to re-create anywhere I’ve lived for CONSEQUENCE (okay, that the last time I’m writing it in all caps :-P) but I’m definitely finding myself thinking about them a lot these days. The good, the bad and the ugly.
Families, small towns and truth. I could get lost thinking about them, but then I’d never get any writing done. So maybe I am, as usual, just overthinking things what I really need to do is stop the thought merry-go-round and just freaking write.
*and, it should be noted, never fit into