Has your writing ever upset someone important to you?

Have you ever produced something that has had a negative effect on someone you know, or your relationship with them?

You can’t please everyone in writing; it is an impossibility. Any subject that we as writers choose of our own volition to explore in our work has the potential to upset somebody somewhere. It’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea and this is something that we can’t really dwell on too much.

But I am not talking about generalities where making a comment and taking a stance (accidental or otherwise) in terms of sexism, racism, politics or another subject where whole groups can be offended – instead I am asking if you have ever written a story that you personally have been happy with and have shared with others, and have had good feedback on, only to find that one person close to you was upset with it to the point that it altered your relationship with them?

Last year, taking a prompt from the Storyslingers writing group, I wrote a flash fiction piece that I was extremely satisfied with. I felt it was some of the strongest writing at that time I had produced and was keen to send it to trusted groups of people for their comments. This included a friend who while not a writer herself had been supportive of my writing and always wanted to read my work.

So I sent it to her without taking the content of the story into account. I hadn’t thought of her while I had been writing the story and it never occurred to me that there was anything in it that anyone could find overly upsetting. I didn’t think when I sent it about things that she had experienced in the past. Things that my story would be taking her back to and that she would sooner forget.

We are still in touch from time to time, wishing each other well with polite platitudes, but our relationship has been damaged and there is now a distance between us. I should have known better and not sent her the story but I just didn’t think at the time. As a result I went through many months of doubt regarding the things I wrote about. What if one of my stories was to upset someone else I am close to, even a family member? I came to the point where I realised I can all self-censor within reason but if I spent too much time worrying about causing offence I would end up not writing anything at all.

To an extent this sort of internal discussion is always off to the back of your head, relying on your own moral compass telling you “that might upset some people” and making the decision to make alterations on the fly.

Has your writing ever upset you?

I don’t mean through frustration; through it not meeting the standards you want it to – but the actual content. Have you ever written something that has made you question what on earth you had inside you that could result in something that you find intolerable? Last week, during a quick writing session before heading out to work, I turned out something that I found to be the most demoralising and pessimistic 300 or so words I have ever produced and I vowed it would never ever see the light of day. It left me with such an uncomfortable feeling for most of that morning but ultimately I’m grateful that I’ve purged that from my system and hopeful that it’s going to open the way to some more constructive and redeeming writing. Something more along the lines of what I want to be producing.

No feelings were hurt in the writing of this blog post – hopefully none will be made from reading it.


3 thoughts on “Has your writing ever upset someone important to you?”

  1. I don’t think so, not that I know of anyway. I AM selective about who I show certain pieces of work to for exactly this reason. We all layer up and obfuscate our real life experiences in our fiction and I worry that people who know me too well will be able to ‘see the joins’.

    As for my writing upsetting me, yes, frequently. Without wanting to sound too pretentious about it (but doing it anyway), I think if your writing isn’t provoking some sort of emotional response in you then you can’t really expect it to provoke one in your reader. Doesn’t always have to be an upsetting emotion but law of averages suggests it will be at least some of the time. Don’t throw it away, that’s the good stuff.

  2. I enjoyed this blog very much. I’m 35 and have chronicled my life since approximately age 10 by way of music/lyrics, poetry, journals, essays and short stories, and though my writing has yet to offend another, (that I’m aware of ) I can’t tell you how truly humiliated I’ve felt at times in reflecting on my own past work. The ignorance of youth…the wisdom of maturity…and each new year it’s the same cycle. I’m even stooped to destroying some, though now I save them all, knowing that when I’m old I may enjoy those periods the most. 😉

    As far as offending another…I say, if you do everything you do with only good intentions then you never have anything to worry about. Sometimes writing is meant to cause offense-even when the writer didn’t mean to, if that makes sense to anyone but me. Lol In that, you grow more. Only force can make the wind blow, be it subtle or strong.

    In the end, I think good writing comes mostly from growth and experience. Never giving up, never ceasing to dream, never changing for the critics and never following another as you walk a road alone.

    There is simply no other path, for “To be great is to be misunderstood.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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