A Writer Dilemma: When People Try to Redact Your Story
Here’s the thing: It is NOT a writer’s job to make sure that you are OK with their story. That is not the writer’s purpose. It is not their responsibility to make sure that you, the reader, are comfortable with what they put on the page. Nope. A reader’s job is to read what they want and to close the book, turn the page, walk away from an article if they don’t like what has been written.
It is a writer’s job to stay true to her story, to remain authentic to himself, and share forward the ugly and beautiful places of their lives.
A writer’s job is to have eyes to see and then share what they see with the world around them.
It is not their job to hold your hand and make sure you are comfortable with what they find.
Good writers make us uncomfortable, they make us stop and think that is the essence of truth telling, story sharing.
A Writer’s Job is to See
This ability to see and share the truth forward does not always make us look good – the people writing or the people ending up on the page. Everyone’s history is messy
Otherwise there would be no adventures to tell, no apologies to make, no stories to craft, no difficult places to navigate, and no regrets. In other words life would be boring.
I love when Brene Brown says, “Regret is a fair, but tough teacher.” (see that interview here)
So while I would love to live a life without regrets – I know that is not possible. I know that “Regret is a function of empathy” (Brown). I understand that some of my biggest relationship and life regrets are going to make it on the page. And those regrets are going to be completely entangled with the lives of those I have loved, tried to love, or found impossible to love.
So I am going to live as best as I can with what I have been given, NO REDACTING NECESSARY OR NEEDED.
When People Try to Redact Your Story
As a writer I refuse to live a redacted life; I refuse to write a redacted story. And I also refuse to allow others to dictate what materials I can and cannot use from my own life. What stories I can tell, how I can see and then represent my truth, how I interpret and represent what has happened to me and around me and the manner in which I have witnessed life around me these are mine to offer creatively.
When we insist that others redact portions of their story – when we tell them that they are misunderstanding us or misrepresenting us, or that their truth is not valid – we are taking their history and making it our own. We are telling them they have no right to their truth.
We are telling them their emotions are too much or not relevant.
By redacting their truth we are saying they have no rights to their voice the way that they choose.
We tell they them they are not valid.
When Someone Tries To Redact Your Story
But then there are people on the fringe of a writer’s life who believe they have a right to take a highlighter to a writer’s history and only point out the places where they felt good about themselves (look at me – look at what I did – why can’t you see how amazing I was? I need you to applaud me more. You should be grateful! Why can’t you be more grateful?). They don’t understand that you can be grateful, but also see and feel a whole host of pain at all the other times when things were not warm, fuzzy, hopeful or even kind. Some will only want a writer to acknowledge the high places while completely ignoring the truth of the bleeding, awful places.
We don’t always bring amazingness to each other.
Actually often we are cruel and self-centered and rub each other raw – and to expect others to only see our awesome and not the broken is not mature or honest or even fair.
Some will believe that they have a right to tell you what you can and can not put on the page, and how you should have been seeing it the whole time (I am not even kidding at how often this is going to happen to you if you write or speak). They will try to take a black marker and attempt to cross off the pain, deny their anger or their jealousy or their cruelty, they will smear the history of toxicity, the poisonous words and reactions, they smudge out the wounds, they take a deep dark Sharpie to the shameful, haunting interactions YOU the writer have had to learn to get over to be OK in the world.
They want you to hide the part they played that was less than warm and encouraging. (I’m an encourager dammit!)
They try for the life of them – to redact you from your own page – removing entire paragraphs of your story for their own convenience, but don’t forget their bullet points of awesome.
And you the writer are left feeling beaten, muted, controlled, disqualified, and sucked dry.
Frankly no one has the right to redact your story.
If you are reading a writer’s story with a sharpie in your fist then your intention is not to understand the writer better, or her story, or her truth – it is to block her out. You are coming to her writing to invalidate her voice. That’s not OK.
When we read ONLY TO REFUTE and REDACT we are not reading with the intent on listening. learning, gaining depth and understanding, and possibly being stirred towards authentic heart change.
No one will understand your story when they come to it with a sharpie in their hand.
But YOU – yeah you, my writer friend – you write your truth… anyways.
I leave you with this ….. I have made the image below something you can right click and download for yourself. Remember: