Thursday, December 21, 2017

Creative liberty.

I loathe the term "creative liberty."

It was used once in reference to something autobiographical I'd written, and it rubbed me the wrong way. It's been years since it was said, and the moment I think about it, it puts me right on edge again. There's nothing more insulting than being told that what I lived/experienced is fiction.

You see, the reasons I write for a living are simple:

1.) I'm good at it.
2.) I love love, and I like writing stories about people falling in love.
3.) I have used my writing as a healing tool to deal with less-than-pleasant things that've happened to me.

Now.....that's not to be mistaken for some sort of whine that I've had a harder than average life, that I've "suffered more than anybody," or that I feel I am victim to unfair circumstances.

The fact is, I am a lucky woman. Extremely lucky. I have a husband who loves and respects me. I have children who have proven that my less-than-stellar parenting techniques aren't wholly detrimental. And I have a career and fanbase that I love and appreciate. Let there be no mistake: I have a good life.

But I have seen some rough times. Regardless of anyone's willingness to acknowledge it, I have. And that's okay. We all have rough times. Rough times are part of the whole human experience we signed up for. Some have it better than others. I look at some of the women here in the South Korean city I live in--with their designer bags and kush lives--and think to myself, "You've never sold blood to afford bread and eggs to feed your kid." Other times I look at people in the country of Kenya, where my son did service work last spring, and think to myself, "You're infinitely stronger than I am. I have more respect for you than I've ever had for myself."

It's all subjective. A matter of perspective, if you will.

But that doesn't negate my right to share my stories how I see fit.

The heading on my personal Facebook page reads: If you don't like being written into my books, you should consider behaving better. My life, my experiences, my struggles, my successes, my trials, my triumphs.......they're all just that. Mine. And as such, I have the right to share them however I see fit. Whether it's by creating an amalgam of different people, situations, or events--or by sharing my life experiences verbatim, word-for-word, step by step, detail by detail. It's my right to do so. Because it happened to me, and when something happens to me, I become a part of it, and it becomes a part of me.

Sometimes we remember things differently than other people. I may have a childhood memory where I was wearing a blue dress and carrying a red balloon, whereas someone else may remember the same event with me in a pink dress and an orange balloon. This doesn't mean either one of us are wrong, it just means, that's our perceptions of the event. And just because those perceptions differ doesn't mean that I no longer bear the right to share that memory with the world. I have as much right as anyone else to share. The rules do not change, simply because someone doesn't like what I'm sharing. It simply doesn't work that way.

Creative liberty doesn't apply simply because someone doesn't like, recognize, or agree with what I'm sharing. Creative liberty is what I gave the baker who made my wedding cake. I showed her a photograph and then showed her my budget, and said, "Do your thing." That's creative liberty. Going to my hairdresser and saying, "I'm sick of this color, surprise me." That's creative liberty. But sharing a childhood--or more recent--memory on my social media or blog that ruffles someone's feathers? That's not creative liberty. That's just called disagreeing with or getting offended by what I've said. Which isn't new to me. I'm fairly used to it by now. My existence offends.

When/if I write an autobiographical story, I've earned that right because I had the experience in the first place. In the very act of it happening to me, I earned the right to share it how I see fit. I won't use names. I won't "out" everyone involved. I won't directly embarrass anyone. But I will share it if I want to, because it was my experience.

But I made a commitment long before I got published...

In my works of fiction, I will not ever tell a story that's not already mine, or that I haven't been given permission to share. I will never tell a story that pinpoints the exact people involved. I will not ever write a character who embodies every trait of one single person, but rather, I will create characters who embody dozens of traits from dozens of people. If you read only yourself in one of my characters, then you're flattering yourself. You're giving yourself credit for something you're owed no credit for. Because if you're in there, and that's a big if, mind you, you're one of at least ten other people I've gathered inspiration from.

The same goes for the scenes and situations found in my fictional stories. I will pull details from a handful of other life experiences I've had, or been given permission from friends to share--in addition to creating a handful of my own home-cooked ideas (because that's what authors do, we make up stories.) I write scenes in books with the intent of making people laugh, sometimes sigh, sometimes cry, and to propel my stories forward. If you read yourself in a scene, you're likely reading a scene I created from half a dozen conversations with half a dozen people you've likely never met before. If a scene embodies your life to the point where you're convinced it's all about you....once again, you're flattering yourself, and taking credit for something you're owed none for.

I write because I have to. Because I came to this earth with a personality that sits comfortably at ten, when normal people rest at at 3 or 4. I am high strung and emotional. I am extremely sensitive and annoyingly transparent. If I didn't write, I am 90% sure I would be an alcoholic, or heavy into self mutilation, or some other such self destructive nonsense. Writing keeps me sane--or as sane as I personally can be, and I'm not sorry for that. I love what I do. I'm grateful for it, because without it, I would be a lost person. If I weren't meant to write, then why else would God give me so much freaking material??

The term creative liberty can suck it.