I worry about offending people.
In real life it can sometimes leave me feeling misunderstood or overlooked because I’ve been reticent with my needs but on the whole it’s a trait a like. I think it’s a pretty good thing to want to avoid hurting someone. But that’s where I ground to a halt with my current work in progress. A near 15 year halt.
My current WIP contains an element that will be considered sensitive material to some. Not may: will. While it’s not my main character, she is important to a large chunk of the novel and I realised that I’ve been putting off writing that part in case I get it wrong. I don’t want to offend anyone.
I really don’t want to offend anyone. Who am I to write a story involving a transgender character? I don’t have any direct experience and shouldn’t those stories be told by the people they most affect?
So I’ve been waiting. Hoping, somehow, I’ll miraculously find an answer; for somebody to give me permission. Asking for help and advice from people – who have uniformly turned out to only be interested in picking my brains over how to write that story themselves.
The longer the story and characters percolate in my mind, the more in love with them I become. The more I feel I have to tell this story. So I reread my work and start up again.
And then stop. What if I’m missing something really important?
And I’ve been on and on like this for more years than I care to admit.
And then, in the middle of another one of my advice gatherings I had a mini epiphany.
There comes a point when you just have to write the thing and worry about offence or accuracy later. No one else can help you navigate your plot around a delicate matter. You have to do that. You have to serve the story first.
Once you’ve done that, and got yourself a draft you can work with, then you can deal with correcting your mistakes. Then you can decide whether you’ve been too thoughtless or thoughtful. Then you can ask others for their opinions on how you’re dealing with it.
But if you try to do it before you’ve written the damn thing then you’re going to be left disappointed and floundering and probably never get anywhere with it.
So I’m getting going. Properly. I’m not running away from the difficult bits anymore. I’m all in.
I wonder if this will expand into the rest of my life?
Have you had an epiphany in your work that’s spilled over into your actually life?