At the February 19, 2011 Writers and Editors Network meeting, the guest speaker was Darlene Madoff, a Toronto lawyer and writer. Most writers, I have heard, speak about writing and publishing. However Ms. Madoff brought up a topic many writers personally struggle with, but few seem to address publicly: the effect of a writer’s published work on family, friends and, at times, even strangers. This was something Ms. Madoff struggled with and the consequence was a fallout with several family members. It was so difficult for her to deal with this, that she actually stopped writing for a year!
First there is the impact of writing fiction which might be loosely or closely based to a real life event whether the author’s own or that of a stranger s/he might have read or heard about. There is always the possibility of the people who were involved in the actual life event to become upset by the way the story has been told. Either these people feel wronged, misrepresented or wished the story would never have been made public despite its being fictitious.
Similarly, the memoir or biography writer faces the same challenges. In this case, the author clearly states her/his book is true and factual. If one is going to expose one’s private life to the public, then one must recognize that other people’s lives will be exposed too. There is no surprise when there is anger or even a lawsuit. That is the chance the biographer takes willingly.
Lastly, there is how an author’s writing will be perceived. It’s one thing for a stranger to say “Your book sucks,” but for a family member or a beloved friend to say it would be a killer. At least, for me. I thought about that when Masks was published. I didn’t care about being badly received by the public, but if a friend had said something negative about the writing, I would have been very upset. Maybe it would have sent me on a writing hiatus too. If a friend would have said s/he didn’t like the story, that wouldn’t have bothered me because not all stories are for everyone. I recognize that.
I find it interesting how self-expression can be so exhilarating and humbling at the same time. The vulnerability is frightening, and yet the need to bring forth our creativity is stronger than fear.