15 February 2013

Love in the Time of Self-Publishing

Oh, it’s so easy now.

No, not love. That’s never easy, and anyone who says otherwise is a filthy liar.

What’s easy is putting your written work in front of the entire world’s eyeballs in seconds. Before you can say “slander suit,” you can publish to your blog, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, and dozens of other social media sites. That means everyone you know, everyone THEY know, and millions of people you don’t know can read your innermost secrets.

Scary, huh?

Add the complication of trying to express those innermost secrets while not letting your loved ones know they’re the subject of your work, and this literary instant-gratification can be downright terrifying.

How many times have you written something you think is brilliant, possibly the greatest story ever in the history of stories, but instantly close the file and drag it into your “Not Ready” folder because “What if my girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband/mother/father/second cousin twice removed reads this?  They’ll know it’s about them!”

Been there, archived that.

So what is a writer to do?

Oh, you actually want some answers? Fine, let’s see what I can come up with.

1.       Be Fearless

Don’t worry, I’m not just preaching “truth in art” and telling you to be absolutely transparent in your writing. Once you’re ridiculously rich and can afford to buy friends, you can try this, but I still wouldn't recommend it.

However, I don’t believe in simply avoiding the opportunity to write about your real-life issues. Previously on PPM, you may have read a fantastic article about putting your qualms and quandaries to work for you, and I totally endorse this concept. You can take a much deeper and more engaging approach when writing about your own problems, so don’t miss the opportunity to add this extra dynamic of honesty to your work. Just...

2.       Be Smart

Come on, you’re an f-ing writer! You make up stories for a living, so find a way to talk about real stuff in a creative--and covert--way. Have a horrible boss and need to vent through your story? Go ahead and give the antagonist some of his or her qualities, but be smart enough not to use his or her real name or any variation of it. If your horrible boss is Andy, you’re not fooling him or your nosy co-workers by calling your villain Randy.

The same goes for true-life situations. If you’re stressed about a holiday argument you had with the family, you may not want to write a scathing short about a familial flare-up over Christmas dinner. Switch it up. Write a medieval farce about a battle between villagers that takes place during a solar eclipse.

As long as you creatively disguise the actual inspirations for the people and events in your work, you can still have the cathartic release that makes writing so thrilling.

3.       Be Careful

No one says you have to send everything you write to everyone you know, and if you’re truly worried about certain people seeing what you've written, pick your placement carefully. You don’t have to link a liberal-leaning piece to Facebook if your conservative “friends” would take issue with it, and vice versa. Sure, you should be proud of everything you do, and we all have freedom of speech, but we’re not free of the social consequences of what we write.

That brings me to the most important point of this piece.

4.       Be Honest

To paraphrase a great poet of the 90’s “If they were angry, you don’t need them, because they’re not good friends.”

Will Smith, you truly are the Prince of Freshness.

As a writer, you’ll ruffle some feathers. You’ll write something that pisses somebody off, even if you didn't mean to. That’s part of the job. You just have to be able to stand behind what you write and let your loved ones decide if they can handle that.

Like I said, love’s not easy, and when we decided to take the writer’s path, we added about ten levels of difficulty. The question is whether the joy of sharing a fulfilled life with our close friends and family is worth the pain we’ll inevitably endure along the way.

I think it is.



  1. This is something that worries me quite a bit actually! What I've found with novel-length work is that although I might start with a situation from real-life, by the time I'm done with rewriting it barely holds a resemblance to the original situation.

    For instance, I worked for a boss I didn't like and finally realised I might've had a crush on in a different situation. That gave rise to thoughts for a novel but, thankfully, she wouldn't recognise the situation any more.

    Short stories I find are more problematic. I find that the germ of an idea can be far too close to reality. That's a primary reason why I shrink from submitting some of them. I like them but, as things stand, I wouldn't want to see them published - too many questions about why I seem to hate certain personalities!

    1. I've gotten over it, but only just recently. I wrote story about a woman in denial that her husband was a zombie and well, it's inspired by my mother's denial and the childhood abuse I experienced. I wasn't shy about it. It is what it is, but before I sent it out, I sent a copy to my mother. We've grown more distant in recent years, but it's not my job to avoid disclosing the bad things other people do. And why should I not be inspired by the darkest or most difficult parts of my own life? How can I triumph if I can't say what I succeed against?

      I accepted that my family was never going to be kind or humane toward me, because they were too busy covering up the abuse and too afraid I would tell someone. In the end, I didn't have to tell anyone anything. I just had to move on with my life and I did and it's nothing short of the most blissful freedom. I would never go back to my silence though the hope of being part of their family is gone.

    2. i love your spunk, ms. bailey. it's exactly how i feel and maybe when i'm ready to do that i'll turn them all in to a pack of pulsating amoeba in a petri dish on the surface of the sun. (i'm not bitter anymore though. therapy fixed that.)

  2. This is great advice! Thank you!

  3. Rob, I loved this. I replied to Carrie's comment with my sentiments but I didn't say this: that I love the idea of a fictional memoir or creative nonfiction... that's where i am at the moment and i think i'll have to be there until i unload what i've started and then i will be free mentally to do other stuff. I just have to stop talking about it. ...Nn...Nnnnn...

  4. Thank you all for your feedback. I've been dealing with a scary, yet ultimately minor health issue for the last week, hence my lack of activity.

    I will no doubt integrate said scare into a future story, but I probably won't be too specific so as not to instigate a deluge of unneeded health advice from the amateur medical professionals I love.