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Creativity and Boundaries

October 21, 2012

A significant event in my creative journey came several years ago when I was a member of a private writers group.  I was one of the more prolific writers, offering poems mostly.  At this memorable meeting, one of the members had not just critiqued my poem, though; she’d re-written it entirely and read it to the group.

The reactions of the other members to this move were subtle and subdued.  I couldn’t really gauge their reactions. Maybe because my own reaction was so vast.  And that reaction?  Utterly shocked and appalled.

Maybe it was an over-reaction.  Maybe I was overly sensitive.  But, what I felt was very real.  I felt she’d stolen from me, taken a product of my creative intent and reworked it into her image of “rightness.”   I felt violated. Her product was very far from what my original intent had been. This particular individual was infamous in our group of friends for having lousy boundaries.  In my opinion, that action proved it – and how.

There’s a whole world out there of fan fiction, and many people participate in it with great enthusiasm and enjoyment.   The original authors/creators of the stories/characters they spring from have varied reactions to this.  For example, Star Trek has had many spin-offs, fanzines, and books written about characters created by Gene Roddenberry and his staff.  Marian Zimmer Bradley and Mercedes Lackey have edited anthologies of short stories written by fans about their characters and worlds.  I understand that Laurell K. Hamilton is uncomfortable with fans writing stories using her worlds and characters.   A lifelong friend of mine writes nothing but fan fiction, and she has done it very well and enjoys it immensely.

When I attend Meetup critiques, public meetings of people with like interests who share their writing with others for feedback purposes, I’m prepared for a variety of philosophies, tastes, social, writing, and interpersonal skills and styles.  However, when delivering my critiques, I attempt to be aware of and sensitive to a poet or author’s creative intent, choosing words like  “For me”, “I observed” or “I interpreted”  or “I felt” and ending with “was that your intent?” or “was that intentional?” when I offer my feedback.  Use of the word “I” is my attempt to own my own interpretation or observations and convey that they’re filtered through my very human history, views, and naturally slanted lens.

I do this very intentionally because creativity is so personal, so powerful, so revealing at times of the writer’s inner self and vulnerability, that I want to be respectful of that.   In my critiques, I attempt to help the writer hone his/her creative intent so that it is most clearly conveyed to the maximum number of readers.

  1. yaoigirl permalink

    As an writer myself I too would feel used or violated if someone used the world, characters or story that I had worked on to write there own watered down or drastically changed version. I actually read one of Laurell K. Hamilton’s fan fictions before I know how she felt about them. It was OK. It merged two of her popular series but was deffinitly NOT a LKH read. I felt terrible that I had contributed to perpetuating something that was insulting to the author I loved. So I have not actively looked at fan fiction again. I’ve even found Harry Potter world erotica that lacked any true magic from the fan writer. (no pun intended)

    About the writing group you quit. You’ll have to tell me more about this group and its rude leader at a future meeting. I’d like to know in case I ever look for more writers groups to go to. I won’t be going to one that can’t take suggestions from its members without getting bent out of shape. I would have sent her emails to the head of the group and said “not appropriate”.

    I can understand your uncomfortable feelings and you are correct in that they should have forewarned the members that the prompts were graphic in nature.

    I’m also an earthy person but in a group setting I do try to keep that subdued also. I don’t always succeed but I have also struggled with boundaries in the past. Part is due to maturity. Part is due to a knee jerk reaction to not having or being allowed to discuss taboo subjects in the past. That “now that no one is stopping me I will…” attitude put my foot firmly in my pie-hole a few times.

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