Subject-ed

I’ve written about being written about. I’ve both abhorred and relished it, but I still write about other real live living people, people who are not me – people whose interactions left a mark, people who have affected reflection, people who inspire jokes – people who could read what I write, and have.

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I try to write honestly and respectfully in all things, but especially when it comes representing someone who is not me. It’s an impossible task – I can walk a mile in their shoes, but I will never be walking the same mile with them in the same shoes as them. My impression is all I have, and so I usually warn people when I plan to write about them, most people. The asshole in line in front of me isn’t getting a warning. People I meet whose conversations have already elicited an internal draft will. But like many first drafts, the final draft sometimes contains only the ashes of that initial spark.

I enjoy the process of sharing a moment of Real Life, of creating the presentation. I get giddy and all jumpy excited when I’m doing something and it’s coming together piece by piece, new image by new image, word choice by word choice. It’s seriously one of the most thrilling experiences. Sometimes I publish it, sometimes I don’t, but I can look through my body of work and feel proud of the accomplishment that is presented in the list. I can look through and see the average number of drafts per post and know that I put effort, time, and joy into putting together each piece. (I also find there’s at least one typo per post, sigh.) Failed or successful, it comes from concentrated effort, more so when I’m not the only character in the story.

he asked quote

When I share a moment of life, it’s because that moment mattered. How I share it depends on how I feel about it and the people in it, and sometimes I make a joke of my displeasure. Like in Introduction To Dating. I write about chance encounters – some have happened and some haven’t – and the stories involve people not me. Sometimes they read what I write. I write knowing any one of the people who have appeared in one story or another could very well read it. Writing nicely, warmly, or not, it matters, but I trust the honesty of the representation and relative anonymity I can provide by excluding identifying information – person, place, or thing – over whether or not I was “nice”. Not everyone I meet, chance or otherwise, will fit nicely and in the context of creating the story of me, nice* isn’t always going to happen.

anne lamott quote

Writing the moment, in a moment that is already removed, should be done with as much absolute honesty as possible. Yes? If it’s the truth, told warmly or coldly, it is the stuff of life. Writing the moment records the various stages of impression as I approach the clarity of hindsight.

A few times in the last year I’ve read the other side of my story – from a walk along the river to a weekend get-away. Each time I’ve analyzed the honesty in my own writing – did I hold true to the timeline, to the setting, to the crowd, to my point-of-view without assuming theirs? Are the specifics of the who, what, when, and where left general? I may not have enjoyed reading the other side, once really, once I hated it (so far), but the perspective continues to be invaluable to growing as a writer.

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Have you written your side of a story and read the other person’s take on it? Have you read yourself as a character? What did you take away from it? 

*Not nice doesn’t have to be mean. Mean isn’t necessary.
Mean hurts people. Don’t be mean.
Not nice means I don’t feel any obligation to try to sugar-coat shit. Ask my ex-husband.

**Featured Image and post images created at Pixlr
***The ads (which may appear) below are not mine, but they keep this free for me. Do with them as you choose.

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18 thoughts on “Subject-ed

  1. I like what you said about “not nice” doesn’t have to be mean. Being honest doesn’t have to be a swinging mace of hate and it ends up being something easily dismissed or at the least given little credibility. But often, I find this easier said than done.

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    • I’m not to into bashing people, in life or online, so I avoid attacks on character, personality, or looks, but if someone insults me and does it with intention, I am not going to kiss any arse.
      You are right in that it is easier said than done, and my drafts will attest that there are many times I go off on a ridiculous mean tangent, but I tone it down or delete it altogether before I publish because that’s not what I’m out to do. I’m just out to figure out my place in this world.
      Thanks for stopping by, John. 🙂

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  2. I don’t usually write about people I know (other than humorous anecdotes about my family in the most generic terms). Maybe it has to do with blogging under my own name; I don’t know. But that doesn’t mean someone might not appear in my fiction some day… (Although I haven’t done this yet, though I know many writers do!)

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    • Most of the people I write about aren’t my besties (though I did in “It’s Been a While). I generally tend to let the situation pass with enough time that I can write with better clarity which means most of the subjects won’t even remember me anymore. Occasionally I don’t and I write while it’s still fresh, like a couple of weeks ago when I found myself reading a 2k+ word comment from one of the people I wrote about telling his side of the story. That brought this post on. I was fascinated in how well the two versions of the story lined up.

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  3. Melanie, knowing the care and thought you put into your writing, anyone whose image is painted by your literary palette should feel confident in your interpretation — whether it be A-hole or angel 😉

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    • People like to have nice things said about them. I get that – I do too. I’d prefer to paint everyone in sunshine and rainbows, but a rain cloud is a rain cloud no matter how poofy you draw it.
      I appreciate your kind words, as always. I’m tickled each time you take the time to read what I write. I admire your writing and the work you’ve put into your career.

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  4. This was true, and beautiful because of it. I don’t always enjoy reading about why people write the way they do, but this was an exception. Thank you especially for the Anne Lamott quote, and for trying to share life as it really was, and not as you might wish it had been.

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    • Thank you Jennie. Occasionally I enjoy reflecting on writing choices, but I find writing about writing is a tough challenge, and this one took me about three weeks to get right (enough).

      Anne Lamott is wonderful. I enjoy her prose, style, and voice. I don’t always agree with her 100%, but I don’t always agree 100% with anyone.

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