When I started talking to my editors about this book, I gave them special permission to ask any question they wanted, inquire about the back story of any poem. They have only taken advantage of this once and when they did, it was to ask if a poem was about romantic love. I assured them it was not and then I explained to them my three self-imposed rules limiting what I write.
- I never write about romantic love. This is usually not something I have to state outright but now that I have a book with the word “love” in the title, I’m going to have to include this fact in the introduction so people know to look beyond that particular expression of bonding. Besides the fact the whole point of this book is to open up a wider view of what love is, I also don’t share something that can be so fleeting in so public of a forum.
- I never mention names in poetry and rarely in a story. Even when I have someone particular in mind when writing a poem, I never mention their name. This is partly to protect them, partly to protect myself, and partly to let the reader interpret the words into their own life and story without being encumbered with my details. If I’m writing about my life in an article or as part of a talk, I will refer to a person via our relationship such as friend, mentor, or sister. If I use their name, it’s always just their first name with no personal details that is only their right to tell. Being in a personal relationship with a writer is hard enough without worrying about what they’re going to say about you.
- I rarely share the stories behind the poems. One of the great things about poetry is people read their own lives into the poems and don’t often wonder at mine. Still, I rarely share my own experience behind them as I want my words to stand on their own merits. This rule also lets me write with greater honesty and openness knowing I can keep details to myself. Though my editors have permission to ask any questions they want, for the most part, I choose not to talk about the stories and leave people free to see themselves in what they read.
These three rules have helped immensely as I’ve written my books. They give me boundaries and help protect those I love.
What guidelines have you created for your writing?