When you write, who will you hurt?

Photo: Greg Broom

That was the question of our discussion in creative writing workshop tonight.  My friend Bill Heather is an architect. He is also a writer in my creative writing workshop group. The group is tutored by Isabel D’Avila Winter, a published author. Pamela Jeffs, another writer-friend suggested that I should blog this discussion and my own response, to help writers who are planning to write autobiographies and memoirs or fiction based on real life stories.  I begin with Bill’s email to me and others in our group.

Bill Heather: Hello all you aspiring and proven writers,

  • Is there a limit to what you can mine from your own life experiences for a story?
  • Are authors of autobiographical fiction or memoir at risk of alienating their family and friends in their search for that elusive storyline?
  • Is ruthlessness in search of your best fiction a necessary attribute of a writer?
  • Would you publish a story if it could destroy the marriage of your closest friend?

There are good questions to ponder as we head towards the end of another year, and ones which are addressed in the attached article from the November 2014 issue of the Monthly. Link at the end of my response to Bill.

Omar Momani: Ferguson’s pen mightier than the sword 

My Response to Bill: Dear Bill and friends,

Thank you Bill. I found the article very interesting and very true. The most safe writing would be fiction.

The pen does ‘cut’ deeper than the sword.

Source: http://typem4murder.blogspot.com.au/2013/09/undeniable-proof-that-pen-is-mightier.html


In my Memoir writing, I question everything I write. I know there will be a lot of ‘hurt’ of others as well as my own. I have created pain in many stories I read in our evening workshop. For example, if I had told my mother the old uncle rubbed my sore leg the ‘wrong way’ I think there would have been some serious charges or bloodshed in my family. The man is dead now but if I spoke about it now – what could happen? I don’t know. I also spoke to my mother and step brother about some stories I have written so far, and we discussed them. These stories were all painful…my stepbrother is my late step father’s son. But my step brother is my best friend – we are very close.

So my point is, as often as I do, I ask, should I just change my memoir to fiction and pretend it is not me or get my ‘freedom to express’ in fiction? Perhaps some stories could be written differently, safely..? Those and others are questions I ask myself all the time. 75% of what I have written, I don’t bring it to our workshop, I am scared to. Sometimes, I write the whole thing and then delete it.
Every now and then, I write fiction for the class exercises, because, this gives me the freedom to write freely without guilt, pain, horror and more. I totally lose myself in the ‘fake’ when I write fiction.
I deal with my writing the truth ‘problem’ this way; I write about me, the events, people and places and things that affect me. I write it all, then I decide what I can manage to live with, and I keep that story. I tell myself, ‘stop thinking about everyone else’. I just write ‘my’ story. I can always pull out what I think is too much at the end of the day. The final choice is mine, and I have to live with it.

I hope that makes sense.



Click here to read the article by Ceridwen Dovey : Monthly 11.14 pp42-45


12 thoughts on “When you write, who will you hurt?”

  1. Thank you for sharing on your blog.
    I too think about these questions a lot. I write stuff from my life, then think about how would that be for so and so to read and then I scrap most of it. I recently submitted a piece to a memoir competition – it was hard going to get the right balance and I hope I got it.
    Your writing group sounds just amazing! How do you find one to suit your needs?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello – what is your name? I could not find that on your blog. Thank you so much for commenting. Good luck with your memoir writing. 🙂 Always remember – it is YOUR story. I have had a lot of feedback and I lost your comment somehow, until now. Re” memoir, I find it hard to write about my life and often cry when I present my work to our Creative Writing workshop. I have had tremendous help and encouragement from Isabel Winter our instructor and group members and friends – that keeps me going. I have been with the group for two years – we all know each other and each of our style or writing, the voice well, and we help each other. I guess the group found me. 🙂


      1. Thanks for your reply. As a Queensland public servant I decided to go incognito for fear that I might be picked up for making some comment that will get me fired. I don’t think I have – I steer away from the political. I think I might need to find a writers group when I am back in Brisbane – it sounds like a great sounding board. Keep writing 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve heard similar questions being voiced before, and a ready answer still doesn’t spring to mind. As you say, there are so many people to consider when writing a memoir. Many families have things in their past they would rather not have out in the open. I do agree that the dead aren’t here to be hurt. But, as for the living . . .? You seem to be doing things in the right way by discussing your planned document with them. It must be hard, I know. My feelings are that you should not turn it into a fiction, although it’s always an option You want to tell the truth, so you should do so. But then, I don’t know your family and how they feel . . .


    1. Thank you Millie for such a thoughtful and useful advise. I think it will become clearer as I get close to publishing, fingers crossed. As I told my friends at Creative Writing group, they may be the only friends and family left after.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s so hard, and I feel for you. You’ve obviously done a lot of soul searching. I know you’ll make the right decision, although it sounds as though you’ve already done so. I hope all goes well.


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