A Writer’s Truth…

My reviews for Tales From The Family Crypt have been overwhelmingly good (26 reviews, 4.3 out of 5) so a new one is often a surprise of a pleasant nature. Not so much a recent one, though. The  reviewer said, basically, “You’ve won the family feud and got the last word by publishing it. Congrats.” Sarcastic. Her point didn’t wound me but it made me think.

Won the family feud? Clearly she’s never been involved in one because I assure you there are no winners in these family battles.  Survivors, yes. We survived our family feud. Through love, luck and lots of hard work, we continue to live happy lives. But won? No.

“Got the last word by publishing it.” Maybe I did  but that is not why I wrote or published the story about our family’s completely dysfunctional era. I published it because so many people suffer similar battles. We can read lots of “expert” advice on how to deal with difficult family members but reading the true stories of people who survive these wars can be much more helpful. Let’s say I was about to give birth and wanted to know the best way to get through labor. Would I rather get expert advice from a male doctor who has never given birth? Or, would I seek out the wise counsel of women who have been through the experience and could give me a firsthand account of the best strategies for dealing with it? For me, it’s the latter. I published the book to reach out to others who may be going through hard times with their families. As someone whose been through many layers of dysfunction, I hoped I could help.

I wrote it for the woman who described how she turned left after leaving the church following her mother’s funeral while her siblings all turned right. She was headed to the cemetery to bury her mother. Her siblings were headed to her mother’s home to plunder.

I wrote it for the guy who trusted his brother to manage his newly widowed mother’s financial affairs only to find out his “trusted” brother took almost a million dollars of the mother’s money for his own use.

I wrote it for the man whose uncle’s house was broken into and ransacked after his death. The burglars were the uncle’s relatives.

I wrote it for the woman whose father was duped on his deathbed by his lawyer/brother-in-law into signing over his most valuable asset to his sister instead of to the people he had chosen to inherit it — his two much-loved daughters.

You get the idea. There is very little in the way of good advice out there for people in these dysfunctional family situations. Some writers delve into this topic, especially bloggers. Do we do it to “get the last word” or to “win?” Should we NOT write our true stories because some people might be hurt by their publication? For example, there are wonderful, poignant blogs about mental illness. In some cases the writers suffer from illnesses that may have been caused or exacerbated by mistreatment at the hands of their parents. Should they be silenced because their true story might hurt those parents or their memories? I don’t think so. Those who blog about overcoming abuse do so to take back some of the power taken from them. If the abusers are still alive should the bloggers be silenced?

Should Augusten Burroughs (Running With Scissors) have kept his bizarre and painful childhood to himself? Millions of people may have been helped by reading the story of his survival. Did Jeanette Walls write her bestseller The Glass Castle about her litany of childhood abuses and misfortunes to win some sort of contest with her parents? Clearly not. For years she hid her past. When she could hide it no more she wrote about it artfully and truthfully. And, no, I’m not putting my book in the same class as those (I wish) but the point is the same. I did not identify anyone in my book with their true names. Only people who know me (and who already knew my story) knew who the real people were. I really wasn’t trying to “Out” anyone. I just wanted the story to be available to people who might find it compelling. Many readers have reached out to tell me they found it helpful in dealing with their own dysfunctional families. That makes me feel accomplished, even better than the good reviews make me feel. (Although I love those so if you read the book and feel so inclined…) 🙂

Write what you know, they tell us. Sometimes what you know can be painful to you or to others.The mirror you hold in reflection may be cracked. But should it be covered so no one can see?


4 Responses to “A Writer’s Truth…

  • Hi Debby. I wanted to pop into your new site, (which looks very nice). I agree that you have to write about ‘what you know.’ If it upsets others then that is their problem. It is so beneficial to write about your experience for others so they know they are not the only ones going through a certain situation, especially when it comes to family matters!

    • deb1252
      4 years ago

      Thank you so much for taking the time to visit my new site and to react. Doubly grateful!

  • I love your honesty Deb, that’s what makes good writing! 🙂

    • I agree. Also I can’t write any other way. Nor can I speak any other way. Sometimes that a plus and other times… not so much. 🙂

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