A while back I read an essay about whether it is okay for a writer to write about their kids. The author mulled over the subject and admitted that she was experimenting and doing the balancing-act for the time-being. That got me thinking.
I don’t have any kids. But I do have other people in my life. There’s the mother, the father, the partner, the friends. You get the idea. In spite of being a writer, I don’t (can’t?) practise utmost seclusion. Anyway so, I got thinking what if I were to write about, say, my parents? Or my close friends? Somehow, I felt an unease. No, make it a malaise. I felt malaise. I didn’t know if I could ever do that, and immediately, I was exposed to a “weakness” which I was not supposed to have.
You see, as writers, we are meant to look at everything not-so-personally, and write about it. We are betraying our writerly side if we tend to become biased. How are we supposed to write our tales if we shun the intricate details that indeed attest them?
If you think about it, you’ll be in a quandary. I believe there’s to be a limit and that everyone is entitled to their privacy. If I come out and tell the world a secret habit my best-friend-from-fifth-grade has, I am doing her wrong. If I decide to write an article that accumulates comments by means of how the father laughs with a pipe in his mouth, I am doing a damage to his privacy. Until, I ask them, that is. And even if I do, how much of literary license on my part is okay? Can I pick pieces that I like and modify/dispose off other bits about these living personalities? Would you?
How do you ask young ones? Is there even a law? A deciding factor? A benchmark that when a toddler babbles in a certain way, he means a “yes, please go and write how I poop because I am going to love it and find it cool once I grow up“? (By the way, who ever writes about that?) And what if the grown-ups, who fully understand the repercussions, are fine in the beginning but not-so-fine with your writing after a few years down the line? What if a subconscious, malicious feeling triggers and works under wraps, and one day they start to hate us because we have been feeding off our writing of them? That’s a LOT to think about.
Some may argue that fiction works differently but I disagree. It seems that fiction doesn’t portray the real inspiration as clearly as non-fiction does. But if your side character has those juicy, quirky details matching that of your next-door neighbour’s, I am sure your neighbour will figure it out. Even if you try to be as discreet about the inspiration as possible. Especially if you try to be as discreet about the inspiration as possible. Yet, there’s a strong reason to use up that inspiration, at least when you’re a new novel-writer. It is observed that début authors draw a sparkling detail or two from the closest people in their lives–at least for their first one or two books. Then, they begin to differentiate because no body wants to get stuck in a rut of sameness of characters forever.
So what are writers supposed to do? Are we supposed to choose the protective role of a mother, daughter, father, best friend, nice neighbour and stay true to our relationships or are we supposed to draw inspiration (keeping it discreet or not) and be true to our tale-telling authorship and our passion of writing?
What “job” would you choose over the other? Or have you figured out a middle-ground? You know what to do next!