Should You Publish and Be Damned?

imagesIs it possible to use material from your own life in your writing and still be on good terms with your family and friends? That’s the question I’ve been mulling over this last week.

download (2)In my current WIP, I have used threads of real scenarios from my own teenage years to stitch together and create a fictional story. The key word in that last sentence is ‘fictional’.

images (1)But after successfully using the ‘freefall’ method and going with the flow, suddenly I stopped in my tracks to consider whether I should be using factual memories for the sake of creating a juicy piece of fiction.

Is there ever a case for writing whatever you like without worrying about the effect on others? But if you start to self-censor, where do you stop? Does the writing become so toned down that it lacks power?

downloaddownload (1)I can hide behind the label ‘fiction’ and “the names have been changed to protect the innocent” get-out clause. But how do the writers of memoirs and autobiographies cope with the knowledge that their version of the ‘truth’ might not be palatable for their nearest and dearest? I recently watched an excellent documentary in the BBC One Imagine series, ‘Jeanette Winterson: My Monster and Me’ where the renowned author talks about the cathartic process of writing about her difficult relationship with her mother.  After the publication of ‘Oranges are Not the Only Fruit’, a semi-autobiographical account of Jeanette’s troubled childhood, her mother said to her,  “It’s the first time I’ve had to order a book in a false name.”

Is the answer to publish and be damned and simply to advise anyone who feels they might recognise scenes from your writing not to read it?  Or at the very least, remind those in your life that it’s fiction, not fact? I think it’s a tricky situation of getting the balance right and telling a good story but without crossing a line of confidentiality.

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Have you ever fallen out with family and friends over something you’ve written? Do you self-censor your writing to avoid upsetting anyone in your personal life?

Writing and the Work/life Balance

I didn’t do any work on my WIP this week because life got in the way. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. To be fair, apart from the usual household stuff that needs done, I had a couple of big distractions. It’s not every week that I sell my house and have to prepare for a job interview. Of course that didn’t mean that I wasn’t thinking about my WIP and this is surely just as important as filling a screen with words just for the hell of it.

But it was frustrating to have to put my ideas on hold while I researched information for the job I’ve applied for and set about the interview task of preparing a PowerPoint presentation. In the ideal world, I would finish my dissertation and my novel before trying to get a job but in the real world (not the fantasy Planet Helen which my hubby accuses me of living in), I am under no illusions that I can make money from my writing(well not until I win the Booker prize).  And I never expected that doing the MLitt would create job opportunities so it was time for a reality check.

After writing last week’s blog post on reasons why people write, Jeanette Winterson  article in yesterday’s Guardian really touched a nerve about the financial side of writing and the motivation to write, “It can’t be about money, because it costs more to go on a good course than most people will ever make back from their writing.”

But how do new writers or less commercially successful writers survive financially? Do they have wealthy partners or live off fresh air? I’m very fortunate to have a hubby who has been able to support me financially (and emotionally) during the course but I have two teenage sons, a mortgage and a finite supply of time to indulge myself in writing full-time without contributing to the family income.

I’m also conscious that I’ve been able to use the title, ‘student’ for the last seven months and when the bubble finally bursts and the course is officially over, I don’t want to swap the label for ‘unemployed’ (I’ve never been out of work in my adult life) so with any luck, in the words of the seven dwarfs, I’ll soon be singing, “Hi ho it’s off to work I go…”