Yesterday I wrote about one cause of procrastination in memoir writing. Today, I want to write about another, one that applies to all personal experience writing, from memoirs down to the tiniest of personal stories shared briefly in a note to a friend or on a BLoG:
Is it violating someone else’s privacy to tell the story?
* * *
Okay. You have a powerful experience and you think it may benefit others if you told it. But should you? And how much? And in what way?
There was a time when strict rules applied to such things. One simply did not tell stories that reflected poorly on one’s family, one did not speak ill of the dead, etc. THEN people discovered that secrets can do a lot of damage and the pendulum swung the other way. Everything was thrown out into public view.
As in most things, extremes of the pendulum are risky choices for guidance.
* * *
When privacy questions arise, it usually isn’t because the story is a glowing tribute. Often one person has been victimized by another. Or someone we love may not be cast in a good light. Still we suspect we have a story worth telling.
Degree-of-exposure decisions are not easy to make. In workshops, we can spend a lot of time discussing key considerations, but there is NO one-size-fits-all answer. Each writer/storyteller/blogger must decide for himself/herself.
Yes, there are ways to obscure identities,
convey events with power but without the nitty-gritty graphic details
AND let’s not forget the beauty of the pseudonym!
But in the end, you may decide there’s no way to craft it that satisfies both your need to tell the story and your desire to guard the privacy of others (if only out of your own moral code, not because you think someone deserves it).
* * *
Some people think about this too much. (I may be one of them.)
Others don’t think about it enough. (Have you been around the ‘Net lately?)
Sometimes we put off thinking through this issue because we aren’t ready to face the memory of the event fully. We think we already have, but the mere suggestion that this issue deserves consideration assumes a willingness to push past “I’m just so mad about this” thinking. And let’s face it: We may not be ready to push past.
There is healing in writing, or can be, and part of it comes from going where the writing takes you and discovering what’s coming out. There IS such a thing as a DRAFT, after all. So write away! But before you go public with your story, you may discover there are turns and choices and sculpting you want to do.
“I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence;
I possess knowledge and discretion. – Proverbs 8:12