I’ve been writing for a long time.
I wrote little ditties on cards to my mother when I was a kid. I wrote papers in school. I wrote essays for contests in high school, and I won a few of them. I wrote an essay for a Fathers Day radio station contest one year and won some cool stuff for my grandfather, including a black recliner that became his smoking and relaxing chair for the next several years. I wrote those crazy idealistic personal statements about how I was going to change the world if I was accepted into medical school. (I guess that one was pretty good too, now that I think about it. I got in, after all.) I’ve written love letters. I’ve written complaints. I’ve written letters that I never sent. I’ve written resignation letters. I’ve written letters telling people goodbye. I’ve written letters to my daughters, trying to impart some tiny piece of knowledge that I felt they needed before they left the nest. I’ve written short stories. I’ve written three unpublished novels. I’ve written hundreds of blog posts.
I’ve been writing a long time, and I’ve written a lot of stuff. Some of it very, very good. Some of it very, very bad.
Through it all, I hope I’ve learned some things, some lessons, that I want to share with you. This is not an all-inclusive list by any means. Some things I’ve learned have been very painful and I would not share them here. Some have been deeply personal and only my very best friends would know about them. That’s okay. The ones I share, I share freely. You may agree or disagree with any of these. That’s your right and your choice. Your writing style, content, thrust and genre may be very different from mine. That, dear reader, is what makes the world go ’round.
Don’t write deeply personal things about family, even if you are sure that the feelings are your own and yours to share. You will be misunderstood. Your meaning, so clear to you in the creation, will be muddy in the deconstruction by your readers, some of whom will of course be the very family you have written about. I have learned this lesson the hard way. The rifts that come from this kind of writing are hard, sometimes impossible, to repair.
A corollary to the above? Don’t believe it when your family or close friends tell you that they don’t really care about what you write and that they never read it anyway. They do care and they do read it. Don’t delude yourself on that point.