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How to Write About Your Family

How to Write About Your Family

Blog

How to Write About Your Family

by Writing Workshops Staff

A month ago


How to Write About Your Family
I've always thought writing about family is hard. I think most writers that I've talked to feel the same way. Unless, of course, you're David Sedaris, who seems to effortlessly mine his family experiences. We know family (and friends) will read themselves into our fiction, personal essays, and poems.

My older brother, for example, who I love dearly and have a great relationship with, hates everything I write because he thinks it is about him (and, maybe half the time it is). So he kinda has a point.

The truth, as Sedaris said, is that as a writer, you’re sorta exploiting everybody you come into contact with. For many, that is why it takes courage to write, especially when you're committing your family to the page.

Sharon Harrigan, a novelist and memoirist, has a list of things you should keep in mind when writing about family, and I find her list pragmatic and encouraging:
  • Don’t worry about what your family will think when you’re writing the first draft.
  • Examine your motives.
  • Tell your story only.
  • Treat some people with extra caution—for example, children.
  • Write down your own memories before you ask other people to fact-check you.
  • Your family will react.
How much of ourselves and family we put into each piece varies. Sometimes the writing can come at great personal cost, and yet the cost for not writing can be even greater.

People write for different reasons, but the compulsion to do so seems universal for those of us committed to the process. And with all of this in mind, we want to help you get your work on the page, especially if your fiction, nonfiction, and poetry is inspired in some way by your family.

Check out our upcoming class on Writing About Family and be sure to let us know if you have any questions. We'd love to be part of your writing journey this year.

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