I have so many great ideas for writing prompts, but they all involve my family members. And each of them has given the red light -- not green -- on me writing about them.
Humor Life Parenting

My Family Is Cramping My Writing Style

I have so many great ideas for writing prompts, but they all involve my family members. And each of them has given the red light -- not green -- on me writing about them.

By Belinda Brock of belindabrock.com

I want to be a truth-teller like Glennon Doyle Melton. I hope to inspire people with words provocative and poignant.  I’m ready to expose my life in order to connect with my readers. But I have a problem…my family. I keep bumping up against their obsession with privacy.

For some reason, they don’t subscribe to Nora Ephron’s mother’s advice: “Everything is copy.” While I’m not exactly comparing myself to Nora Ephron, a lady who really knew how to tell a story, I’ll never reach my creative potential with the constraints enforced by my loving family.  How can I do raw and honest (what every editor wants) with my family’s objections ringing in my ears?

I have raised two children—lots of material there for all the parenting websites; however, my kids are not willing to have me transform their adolescent angst into art or share any of the other lessons I have learned through my failures and successes with them. Many of the other authors have children who are very young and have no knowledge they are the stars of their parents’ pieces (but they will, one day…and perhaps a revenge blog or two will be born).

I crafted an essay about taking my daughter on a college tour. And yes, it mainly revolved around her, although it was told from my point of view. I thought it was insightful and funny and knew just which online magazine would appreciate it. I forwarded it to my daughter, so she could admire it as well—instead she told me that she was uncomfortable with my describing her staunch refusal to get out of the car because she found a campus butt ugly, how her sleeping while I drove was not the mother-daughter bonding I had anticipated and other stories along those lines. So much for that essay.

I turned to my son. After all, raising a son certainly can generate many ideas for an essay, but I’ve always had to tread carefully when it comes to my son’s privacy. He neither likes me to repeat anything too good about him nor discuss any challenges he may be confronting. Essentially, I am limited to making generic conversation about him even with my close friends. It took years until he finally accepted my friendship on Facebook (as my birthday present!), and he must give his permission any time I tag him in a picture (even on Throw Back Thursday). I cannot envision revealing anything more about him in an essay than I’ve already done in this paragraph.

After I decided to move on from the parenting sites, I came across an edgy and humorous online magazine aimed at women. I submitted an article, which was accepted! When I shared the good news with my husband, his pleasure only lasted until he found out the topic: my routine gynecological exam. To be clear, no one would consider this to be a risqué piece, although the word vagina does make several appearances. He asked how I would feel if he published a piece about his private parts and I replied, “Proud”; however, that didn’t seem to satisfy him. While I didn’t withdraw the article, I did agree not to promote it (not exactly the best move for a writer).

A funeral I attended got me thinking and talking about our burial plans and prompted an essay on that (not-so-juicy) subject. My mother-in-law had a less-than-enthusiastic reaction (who knew she read my stuff?) upon its publication and deemed it too personal, especially since I had made a reference to her cremation plans. Ahh, doesn’t she understand the concept of turning life—or death— into art?

The drama and intrigue in my (unconventional) extended family rivals any soap opera. Surely the twists and turns of my relatives’ lives would lend itself to colorful essays, but my ties with several of these family members are already tenuous (at best) and certainly could not withstand either the weight of my analysis or my opening up their lives to public speculation (but call me—we’ll talk).

I’ve tried telling my family that privacy and discretion are overrated.  I’ve patiently explained that true art is frequently discomfiting. I’ve resorted to saying that not everything is about them. All to no avail—they won’t budge.

As it happens, the trip to the cemetery helped me find a solution. I started writing about my mother, who passed away several years ago. I can genuinely say my mother is an inspiring subject and honoring her through my writing is gratifying, but I can’t deny that a big advantage is that she can’t object. I am free to write about my mother—and my childhood— through my own lens.

So I think I’m going to stick with nostalgia for the time being—it’s much more peaceful.


About the Author

Currently a free-lance writer and editor, Belinda Brock’s background is in teaching and educational publishing. She authored the award-winning “GG and Mamela,” the first children’s book to address family illness and hospice care. Her work has been featured on Huff Post, Midlife Boulevard, Better After 50, In the Powder Room and in several anthologies. She is a contributor to “The Best Advice in Six Words,” which is the exact amount of advice her now adult children are willing to consider from her. Follow her on Twitter and belindabrock.com.