This isn’t about overcoming the fear of being bad. I’m not afraid to suck. What I’m talking about today is the fear of offending people.
For instance, I could write about my ex boyfriend whom I found out six months into the relationship was engaged. I’ve been filtering little details into my writing for years but never the complete situation. I’m actually afraid to have the actual situation anywhere. If someone recognized him in my writing, it could come back to hurt him. So I don’t write about him because I don’t write to hurt people.
But there’s other instances where I wouldn’t be writing specifics and I wouldn’t be writing about anything that could hurt someone’s reputation. But what I write could still hurt their feelings.
I’ve heard some writers say that if people didn’t want something written about them, they should have behaved better. Well, in most cases the problem isn’t bad behavior. In the case of family situations, people can’t help what happened or how things went down. They still might not want their dirty laundry aired out in public through our writings.
Even though I don’t write the incriminating details, I’ve got works trunked that I don’t know if I’ll ever release. The stories have things that I experienced, set differently with things changed. The stories have just enough truth to make a few people uncomfortable if they ever read them.
So at what point should you be brave and just suck it up and write the thing? Where is the line between airing your dirty laundry and giving people like you some representation in literature? Fact: I’ve never read an honest story about someone with a disabled sibling. It’s always a super helpful, almost saintlike character who believes that their lives are richer for having the disabled sibling. They never talk about the rough parts of those characters, only the lies everyone else wants to hear. They never talk about the jealousy and loneliness in that character’s childhood. They never talk about the teasing and the stigma.
The fact is, you need to be scared of what you’re writing. If you aren’t at least a little bit scared of it, it’s not meaningful enough. If you aren’t a little scared, it’s because you aren’t telling the whole truth.
Write scared and be honest. Some of the worst things you have to offer are the most helpful to the rest of the world.