I disguise the folks I write about. When scribing memoir, or creating fictional characters, based off of people I know, I’m sure to transfigure recognizable names, places, and situations.
Nonetheless, I still receive emails filled with contempt, for some of my work. Recently, an ex, one that couldn’t find the will to apologize until he discovered himself in my words, sent me a message.
“I’m sorry. Never got the chance to say that. Seriously, it’s my story. It’s about me. Can you take it down?”
No. Absolutely not.
It’s also my story. I lived through it, swallowed it whole, and chose to regurgitate it when it was convenient and/or therapeutic. I then decided to publish it, because I knew/know there are woman who’ve also tried to siphon their hearts, back from the men who've stolen them.
I didn’t exactly respond this way, but he got the message.
“I should have known what I was getting into, when I decided to date a writer.”
This statement. The one above, sparked something inside of me that I haven’t felt burn in a while.
Yes, my brother. You should’ve known.
A few years back, I’d go on dates with people who always made the joke, “Oh you’re a writer? Ha. Well, don’t write about us, when it’s all said and done.” I smiled half-heartedly, knowing that in every joke there’s some truth.
I started to ask permission, afraid I’d offend:
I’m working on this piece about long-distance relationships. Is it okay if I talk about us?
Hey, I really loved how we got over that hump, last week, mind if I use it in an advice piece on my blog?
I didn’t seek out publishing everything that happened to me, however sometimes my experiences slipped into my brainstorms. (duh.) The lessons life handed me were incredible content, inspiring moments that any reader could benefit from. When I realized that the person I loved was meddled within that first draft, I’d go to them for their approval.
When I started to do this, with my current boyfriend, he looked at me like I was insane.
“Can you do what?” he asked.
I was anxious as all hell, I thought he’d flip, “Can I use our experience, in this piece?”
“You can do whatever you want. It’s your story too. I knew what I was getting into, when I started to date you. Have fun writing.”
He said this same thing, when spoken word season came around, and I was called to do shows frequently. Something two ex-boyfriends absolutely hated.
“You stay leaving on the weekend. You don’t want something real? You want something part-time? Just be with your man.”
They wanted me to chill out and settle down. At 21? Que? I wanted to write. I had all the goals I aspired to and I couldn't sit still, for too long.
I looked at, my current boo, as if he was from another world, an anomaly in my romantic existence. There he stood, unflinching and sure, understanding that what I did was not a reflection on our livelihood, but what I needed to breathe.
“This is what you do babe. It’s a part of why I love you.”
I have had several conversations with writers who struggle with releasing amazing stories; for fear that their family members, friends, loves, and/or roommates might recognize themselves. I tell them that I’m an advocate for protecting those we care about, but I also remind them that those are their stories too. “They belong to you. You have no clue who’s listening, no idea who’ll blossom, petal by petal, because of your words. Don’t negate that.”
I sift through my work carefully. There are several things; I don’t share, because they’re not for public consumption. Some things are just solely for you. However, when a story strikes me as spell bounding, something the world needs to hear, I’m sure to post it. I no longer need anyone’s permission.
To those who fear being immortalized, by the art of the word. Let me promise you a few things:
We are masters of describing those most tragic and most inspiring. We will take care in molding your flaws and attributes, with adjectives. We are unaware that we’re healers, doctors to those looking for guidance, from the literary.
& truly, we can’t help it. Nothing is really fiction. Our work is comprised of our memories of hell and heaven, bits of our soul that flutter from us, unexpectedly. Letting go and sighs hidden between the letters.
Allow us this. & if you can’t…
The only thing bound are our notebooks. You’re free to leave, whenever you’d like.