Tuesday, January 3, 2012


It's Taylor Swift I keep thinking about, Taylor Swift who apparently eulogizes all her past boyfriends in song. I'm wondering what Taylor doesn't write about.

There are many many things I won't write about -- my own stuff and other people's. I am very aware that the Internet is a public and permanent forum -- that what happens on Facebook doesn't stay on Facebook.

And yet, when the issue of privacy in terms of blogging and writing arose most recently, I wondered whether or not I've drawn the boundaries tightly enough, whether the people in my life are safe from me using them as material. And at the same time, whether I am free as a writer needs to be to write about what I know, what I've experienced.

I know of several mommybloggers who have opted to be increasingly limited in what they say about their kids as the kids get old enough to be aware of what their parents are doing. Essentially the fact is that Mom has chosen to blog; the kids haven't chosen to be blogged about.

And likewise, I have at least more choice about what I write about. I've just finished an eight-year run writing about Quebec, and I have a new place in my sights. Is it safe to invite me anywhere? And yet, there are many places I've loved that have not inspired writing.

In my questions of the last week, I did some online research to see whether there were rules that I had missed, rules that would protect the people and places I love from being captured and displayed by yours truly. Apparently it's taboo to write about someone else's sexual orientation, religion, political views and personal habits without their permission. To which I say, duh. I suppose blogs and social media can be used in nasty ways, but those lines seem a little too clear. The real issues arise, as a friend I talked to said, much sooner than this, and are much fuzzier.

Can stories that would be totally fine at a cocktail party be told online to a wider audience? Do some people have proprietary rights to places or events? Do a writer's motives matter? Does it matter whether such stories are told in a favourable light or not? Or, is it safest never to mention anyone else at all? (Also, how is that ever possible?)

None of these are theoretical issues for me, but very real questions.

There are pieces I have written that will never be published; pieces that may never be published; occasionally there are short pieces in my mind that are erased once the emotions subside that will never even be written down.

Relationships matter. But so does truth telling and story telling. I called this blog entry MYOB (I just realized that MYOB is an acronym that preceded texting) but here's the thing: what if having a writer in your life means that sometimes your business is my business?

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