Muse on Strike

On Strike signSince everything is copy, we writers appropriate everything—conversations with friends and colleagues, snippets from eavesdropping, news, movies, domestic and geopolitical dramas. Sometimes this habit of appropriation tempts us into being inappropriate.

Mothers who write, especially those who find their children to be a reliable Muse, face even greater challenges. Such as, “How do I mine all this rich material without leading to (a) lawsuits; (b) children needing to be in therapy all their lives; or (c) children writing another Mommie Dearest, assuming they’ve benefited from all that therapy and have inherited a knack for writing and retribution?

Caution is the watchword, at least once your child learns to read. Just as adorable nude shots of your toddler must be removed from photo albums before dating commences, so, too, must the experience you co-opt not be too embarrassing or revealing. Remember, just as some zealous Walgreen’s clerk might misconstrue your innocent pictures and report you to the child pornography hotline, so, too, may your writing land you in trouble.

Long ago I acquired a fig leaf of maternal decency by asking my daughters how they felt about my writing. Emma said, “I don’t care what you write as long as I don’t have to read it.” Ally, always the go-getter, said, “I don’t care what you write as long as I get a cut.”

I took that as full license. Exercised with great sensitivity and familiarity with libel laws, of course!

Recently, though, Emma remarked, “I read somewhere that you should never write about your children.”

A better mother might have responded, “Oh? Tell me more.” Or, “How are you feeling about my writing (which you never read) these days?” Or even, God forbid, “OK, I’ll stop.”

Instead I cried indignantly, “You’re changing the terms!”

Looks like it might be time to renegotiate the contract with my disgruntled muse before she walks out on me altogether.


How do you handle writing about your kids? And what’s it been like to read about yourself in someone else’s writing?

4 thoughts on “Muse on Strike

  1. I wholeheartedly disagree…and don’t see Lorrie’s renamed offspring as hapless victims of inappropriate disclosure. She spends much more time making fun of herself than revealing closely held family secrets or things integral to their identities. With a light and respectful touch, she writes about things that are personal, the importance of which flows from the personal. At some point, even one’s children are capable of rendering independent judgment about how not central we are to their identities — as evidenced by each of their comments. Hardly equivalent to taking them to and paying a tattoo artist to burn their mother’s name into their flesh.

  2. I was glad to see the most recent Shrinkrapped. As always, I appreciate your wit and style. However, I must say that I have, at times, had difficulties with your writings about your kids….which I believe have crossed some boundaries. Sure, they might have given you permission to write about them, but they also know that you have a passion for writing and taking away from your material might have been too much for them to do. Also, published writings don’t go away in that they stay in “print” and in the minds of those that read them. How can a child ever consent to something so permanent? It’s kind of like taking a child to a tattoo parlor and tattooing your name on them. I don’t think that’s ever the right thing to do, even if they want the tattoo, and even if the tattoo artist is truly a gifted artist. The work might be good……but not appropriate. So, why did I not speak up about this before? I probably should have…..but you never asked. This time you did…….so I don’t feel that I was crossing a boundary. In short, in my opinion writing publicly about one’s child is very easily an inappropriate crossing of a boundary. My two cents. Aside from that……..I love your writing. Keep it coming.

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