Well, I’ve been reprimanded again for my writing. Apparently some people thought that my last blog post was saying that I have a poop fetish. This is not even remotely true. OK, yes, I have in the past written about my idea for a TV show about animals pooping. (It’s actually a really good idea.) And yes, I did suggest that people could use the “pooping back and forth” graphic on their Valentine’s Day cards, but that was (mostly) a joke. However, in no way do I want poop to be involved in sexy times. Poop belongs in the toilet, not the bedroom… OK, glad we cleared that up.
This is not the first time people have gotten upset about things I’ve written. It’s easy to see how it can happen with my blog posts. I write them fairly quickly and post them without a lot of time for editing or thinking. Plus, I’m writing about myself, my friends, my family. Sometimes I inadvertently say something offensive or inappropriate in my quest to be entertaining and truthful.
But I’ve also made people upset with my fiction, which I have normally read and revised and edited to the point of nausea. The first story I ever got published (“Goddesses“) was a short piece I wrote as a college senior. The story came from a writing exercises in which I tried to imagine an awkward interaction between one of my best friends (a free-spirited single mother who had recently become a doula) and my conservative, middle-aged boss. When my friend read it she called me, upset, saying she didn’t like the way I’d portrayed her.
“It’s not you,” I tried to explain. “It’s a character. It’s fiction.”
“She was basically me.”
“She was inspired by you. But she’s not you.” I wondered though, if the tables were turned, would I make such a distinction? I had used a line of dialogue that was, verbatim, something my friend had said.
“Well, you made her sound ditzy, and it’s going to give people a bad impression of doulas.”
I told her not to worry, the number of people who would actually read this story was tiny in the grand scheme of things. But she didn’t want my rationalizations. She wanted an apology. So I said I was sorry.
I wasn’t really sorry about what I had written. But I was sorry to have upset my friend. And that’s the scary thing about writing. Sometimes we hurt people with it. Sometimes what we write is misinterpreted. Sometimes people think you have a poop fetish.
So what do we do? Do we stop writing? Do we try to monitor what we write so that we don’t ever hurt or offend anyone?
We’re never going to make everyone happy with the things we write. That’s hard for me, as a lifelong people-pleaser. But I’m learning to accept it, along with the fact that sometimes people are going to misinterpret what I write. I can’t explain to every reader, “what I meant was…” or “but you weren’t supposed to think I have a poop fetish.”
When I write my blog posts, I try to monitor myself so that I don’t say anything too inappropriate about my friends or family. But I know I’ll probably get reprimanded again at some point. It’s one of the hazards of the job. And when my first book is published, I know there will be some good reviews and some bad ones. The important thing is that I’m happy with the book and feel like it’s my best work.
You can’t please everyone. So you might as well try to please yourself.