The workshop instructor walked into the classroom and started writing without saying a word. Rule #1: No stories about dead pets or dead grandmothers.
A young writer raised her hand, the instructor nodded, and she asked, “Why not? Those stories come loaded with emotions that will surely touch the reader.”
The instructor took a few steps and stood in front of the young writer’s desk. “How would you feel when someone says your grandmother was a real bitch?”
“My grandmother was no such thing!” The writer leaned back, away from the instructor.
The instructor pressed on. “What will you say when a reader tells you that you treated your dog like a nice pair of shoes?”
“Sparkles was a happy dog!” The writer’s chair squeaked as she tried to get away from the instructor.
The instructor walked back to the board. “And that is the reason why I don’t want any stories about dead pets or dead grandmothers.” He underlined his #1 rule with one shrieking stroke of his chalk. “Or about anything that might be so close to you that you are not ready to hear what people really think about it.”
That episode came back to me a couple of days ago as I read an email sent to me by a bloggy friend. He wanted to apologize for removing a comment I left on one of his posts. It was actually a guest post, and the guest poster didn’t think that my comment was the kind of emotion/response he wanted his work to inspire.
Well… I wanted to keep my mouth shut about this one, but… I couldn’t. I just feel too terrible about an artist who produces work, makes it available to the public and expects people to see exactly what he wants. That doesn’t happen. The reader, viewer, listener… might see what the artist intended, but they will see other things too; emotions and ideas inspired by their own experiences.
Art is alive, and that is what makes it so delightful. People look, examine and digest art with their senses, heart and soul; no artist can control that process (and thank goodness for that!).
Long story short, if you are not ready to hear that your dead grandmother was a real bitch, or that dead Sparkles was only cute when he wasn’t shitting and yawping, then don’t write about them. And if you must, then keep it to yourself or only show it to people who you know will lie to you.
Don’t create work and publish it, if you are not ready to be exposed.
No offence meant to dead grandmothers or dead puppies or zombies.