I recently realized that, whenever I’m doing something creative, whether it’s writing a song or a blog post or something else, one question I’m usually, and unconsciously, asking myself is: “would my parents be okay with this?”
Not surprisingly, this concern is particularly strong when I’m writing a piece where some of the characters are parents. In Steve’s Quest, for instance, Steve’s Mom is overbearing, maybe to the point of being tyrannical, and I fretted over whether I should play the songs she sings to my mother (in the end, I did).
But even if I’m not writing something that’s specifically about parents, the same worry is usually there on a subtle level. If I’m writing a song with a sad or angry mood, for example, sometimes I’ll wonder if my parents will hear the song and think I must be in that mood. What’s more, maybe they’ll interpret the song as my way of blaming them for making me feel that way, and then feel guilty or get defensive.
But What Would They Want?
There’s probably some truth to all this. After all, the songs I write, as well as all of my thoughts and feelings in any given moment, probably are deeply shaped by my experiences with my family.
And it’s not impossible to imagine that, if I wrote a song that expressed anguish, and my parents heard it, they might hold themselves responsible for the feeling conveyed in the song, or see the song as an attack on them.
But when thinking about this issue a few days ago, I had an important realization: even if my parents felt hurt by a song I wrote, that doesn’t mean they’d want me to scrap the song. They wouldn’t want me to stifle my creativity to spare their feelings. I’m fortunate enough to have parents who have, by and large, encouraged me to write.
Who’s the Parent Here?
Seeing this has helped me put my concerns about “hurting my parents with my writing” in perspective. But this realization might not be as helpful to some people. Some of us, I suspect, do have parents who would want us to repress our creativity to keep them comfortable.
For people in this situation, I think a useful question is: if you stifled your expression to keep the peace with your parents, would you really be helping them?
In other words, if you kept your parents from hearing difficult truths about your relationship with them, would you be acting in their best interests? Or would you be treating them like children, and depriving them of opportunities to grow?
Sometimes I suspect that creative expression is really about communicating things we don’t feel able to directly say to people. A lot of psychologist Alice Miller’s writings (definitely check her out if you haven’t already) are on this subject.
As so many of us find honest communication with our parents one of the hardest things to do, I think, our creativity can be one route to building the connections we want with them, or at least feeling like we’ve said what we need to say.
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