Monday, September 16, 2013

Who's Under Your Bus?

by Michelle Wilson

Writing is like driving a bus. (You ready for this one?)

You've got this great and powerful vehicle that can carry anyone you want to anyplace you want.

With fiction, you can take your reader to, not only new places on earth, but to other worlds. You can open them up to the mysteries of an unknown universe and time, or unlock the secrets of the heart of the woman who lives next door.

As a writer, you are the driver. You decide where you will go and who you want to take.

You also decide who is under your bus.

My mom bought me a t-shirt that says, "Be nice to me, or you might end up in my novel." I've talked to a few writers who have found great satisfaction in killing off an ex-boyfriend in their books. In the novel I just finished, I based one of the (annoying) antagonists on the ex-wife of one of my beta readers. He quite enjoys critiquing my book. Lol.

In fiction it's not too bad to throw people under our literary bus. Sometimes it's fun. And most times it is harmless.

But, non-fiction is different.

You might think you're not a non-fiction writer, but if you've ever written in a journal, a blog post, a Facebook status, a Twitter tweet, a letter to a friend, a talk in church, you have written non-fiction.

 As I wrote my women's inspirational non-fiction book, "Does This Insecurity Make Me Look Fat?" (which is available for preorder now here through Deseret Book, with a release date this December 30th. Excited and unapologetic plug here!) I was careful at not only where I was 'driving my bus,' but over whom I didn't want to drive it over: my kids.

 As moms we tend to commiserate one with another. As moms who write, we do it in print. As moms who write who also network via blogs and Facebook and Twitter, etc, we do it in print in front of everyone.

In my book I shared some stories of the struggles I've had as a woman and a mom, and much of it has been done with humor. But, I've tried to be very cognizant of how much I share and in what flavor I share some of the trials I've experienced via my children. I don't want my children to read anything I've written with embarrassment or regret.

It's important to remember that as we share our lessons and experiences, we do it in such a way that we don't throw our kids under the bus, meaning (quite bluntly) we don't share personal things about our children that will embarrass them, demean them, or hurt them for our own benefit.

Whether it's in a book or on Facebook, we must understand and remember that our children are not little extensions of our lives, but their own persons who have the right to drive their own buses.

I have seen mothers complain, accuse, demean, even demonize, their own children for the sake of venting or sharing. True, most times these moms don't have ill-intent. We love our children dearly--even though they sometimes drive us crazy.  But, they are still people. They have the right to create their own reputations, their own public identity--their own bus, without their mothers telling the world that little johnny is irresponsible, or little molly lies a lot.

I have not always been completely innocent of this.

Just a few months ago I posted a Facebook status about my teenage son that was a harmless (in my eyes) crack about how the house had been so quiet while he was gone at scout camp (with a few other details). My FB friends got a kick out of it. But what I hadn't taken into consideration was that my son was also my FB friend, and he didn't find it amusing. In fact, he was a little hurt that I would broadcast an insult for fun.

I realized I had thrown him under my bus, and I repented.

Yes, parenting is hard--really hard. But, so is being a kid and growing up in this world. Our kids should know that we are their sanctuaries--we are the safe harbor for all their faults and weaknesses. They should feel that we protect them from harm, not run over them with our bus because we are seeking support, validation, or we need to vent, or we just think it's funny.

Of course we can share, generally speaking, our thoughts and feelings- but we should always take into careful consideration how it will make them feel.

 Even our little ones. Someday they will grow up to understand the things that we've said, and written, about them. How will it make them feel about themselves? How will it make them feel about us? How will it make them feel about how we feel about them? (Ask yourself that one ten times fast!)

Writing is a powerful force, a force that brings our thoughts and dreams (good and bad) into reality. We can go anywhere and do anything. We can lift up or tear down. We can spread the love or encourage criticism and hurt. We drive very powerful buses with the words we put out there.

We love our children, and wouldn't purposefully hurt them. Let's be sure we don't do it by accident, either.

Write on and drive carefully!


  1. Nice. I've had to rethink several blog posts with this idea in mind. Even though they would have been REALLY funny . . .

    1. I know! It's a tough balance! I've had to do the same thing :)

  2. Replies
    1. Thank you, Ramona. And thanks for the share! If I had Wife for Life on the brain more, I would have added the same thing about husbands!

  3. This is true for the adults in our lives as well as our children. Technology is wonderful, but also it speeds is down a whirlpool of destruction if not used carefully.
    Thank you for your thoughtful post.
    Margaret L. Turley