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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What if My Mother Hates or Is Horrified by What I Write?

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Recently, an editor expressed an interest in one of my books, a story about what might have happened if Little Red Riding Hood hadn’t lived happily ever after. When my mother and grandmother—who both, like my dad, occasionally read this blog—found out, they quickly expressed their desire to read the manuscript, much to my horror.

My mother and grandmother are both avid readers. They are where I got my fascination and love for books, but they also knew me my first day on this earth, changed my diapers, and appreciated all my childhood innocence. Well, since I’m not a child any longer and do not write for children, I now have this, perhaps irrational, fear that they will read my stories and have their image of me rattled, that they’ll gasp in shock, shake their heads in grave concern, and secretly concoct ways for me not to learn of their horror and disapproval so as not to hurt my feelings. You see, I may be my own worst critic, but the opinions of my close family are almost as impactful as that of my own mind.

On some level, if I put something in a book that I was warned against at any point in my childhood, I feel a twinge of guilt. Not that I strew large amounts of obscenities across the page; engage in unnecessary, gratuitous, or extraordinarily kinky sex scenes; or sing praises to the worst humanity can do to itself. But, occasionally, a character will curse; my heroes and heroines don’t just kiss chastely or sleep in separate beds like Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, and I do not shy away from letting my readers know some of the evil my villains commit. Growing up, I hated to disappoint my parents and, while we might not have always agreed, I tried hard to live up to their expectations and not disappoint them. As a result, one of the things I’ve had to learn as an author is how to attempt to not allow any of this mindset and history to keep me from writing the stories inside me. I’ve had to learn and am still learning to trust the person I am and that the stories I come up with are worth telling, even if I cringe at the prospect of my family reading them.

Yes, I know, it probably shouldn’t concern me as much as it does. I probably should toughen up my skin and all that, but I’m not there yet. At least, I finally got up the courage to confess to my mother my fear of her reading anything I wrote. She was understanding and all the more intrigued about my book. It wasn’t exactly the reaction I was expecting.

So I’ve decided to go ahead and let my mother and grandmother read the book that this editor is currently looking at. I sent them the manuscript yesterday afternoon. Odds are their images of me won’t be as scarred afterwards as I fear, and I know that, at some point, they’d read it anyway. Even if they had to wait until they bought the book, they’ll read it, and honestly, that interest in what I’m doing and that expression of love I’m appreciative for and blessed by.

Am I still utterly paranoid about their reaction? Of course. But I’ve always been a pull the Band-Aid-off-fast type of girl. At least this way, I can move past this mental hurdle. Either my mother and grandmother will enjoy what I wrote and not think any the worse of me, in which case I’ll feel much more confident about any future books falling into their hands, or they’ll not like it, in which case I can come to terms with that fact and move on.

How about you?  Did you ever worry over how your family would react to your work, interests, or hobbies? Are you past that sort of thing? Do you still?  What did/do you do about it?  How did they react?

7 comments:

  1. Oh boy. This is an issue for me. My mother has read everything I've ever written, but lately, she claims my writing makes her blush. I feel like this might be a subtle cue that means she doesn't want me to ask her to read things any more, at least things that have sex in them.

    I'm pkay with that. To each her own. I certainly don't want my writing to cause anyone to squirm. But I will say there was a moment there where I felt bad about myself because my mother didn't like something I produced.

    I got over it quickly and I just know now that if it's validation I'm after, I need to find it in myself. If anyone else gives me any, that's cool, but if anyone doesn't like what I've done, I can deal as long as I believe in it.

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    1. That's a great attitude, Jessi. You're an inspiration.

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  2. I stopped being concerned about how my parents or in-laws felt about me a long time ago. We were just protecting you years ago. I would not worry about what they will think, because they except you no matter what!!!

    They love you no matter what!

    Love you!
    Dad

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  3. Ah, Dad. Thanks! You never fail to be supportive, and I love you all the more for it.

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  4. This is why I'm glad that my parents don't read anything I would write. The only family members who do, I accept their geekiness and judgement without concern.

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  5. I guess almost every writer must struggle with this to some degree. My mother died when I was young, so the problem of my mom reading my writing is one I only wish I had. My dad, though... I think I'd feel uncomfortable if he read my novels that are sexually explicit. He's not a reader, though. I think the average number of books he reads per year is less than one. He's never volunteered to read my work, and I've never asked him to read it, and perhaps we're both happier that way :).

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  6. Congrats on the editor request! That's so wonderful -- keep us posted! Fingers crossed! And thanks for the tag...will get to it tomorrow :)

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