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Friday, September 17, 2021

Does Every Happy Family Have Its Own Coward?

If no member of your immediate family has ever been offended or alienated by anything you've written, you have yet to be genuinely honest with your writing. 

I've had difficulty tracking down definitively which writer first made that observation, paraphrased for the purposes of this post. Some sources claim Ernest Hemingway first said it, others say Tennessee Williams, still others attribute it to Gore Vidal. No matter; the essential truth of it stings me as an aspiring writer. This became clear to me as I recently realized how hard I've worked to not offend or alienate anyone in my immediate family while publishing over 2000 blog posts since March 2011. 

I can't claim kindness has motivated my meekness; I'm not that kind. Nor can I assert tact has limited my candor; my foot has been in my mouth a good portion of my adult life. The more I reflect on it, the more inescapable the conclusion. I'm a bit of a coward. Not ennobling, but probably true.

It's not as though I haven't written dozens of posts about members of my immediate family. But in all my posts laying bare any fault lines in my reasonably functional family, I've been purposefully vague. Contrast those veiled posts to the ones where my family are the good guys. In the latter I'm clear who is the subject. But in the former, references are oblique, specific details that could identify any individual are avoided, generalities abound. Coward? Maybe, maybe not. Dishonest? No question. More work to do.  


  1. Hello, Pat. I hope this finds you all doing well.
    Not sure if I would use the term coward but I'm sure it fits and covers a lot of ground. I am not a writer, at least aside from my comments on your Blog Posts, but I am fairly certain that, whether it be by my spoken words or actions, I've offended someone, sometime. Probably more than one someone. I do, however, try to remain as 'politically correct' as possible while also stretching that term to its greatest limits. As I am sure most would admit to - even if just to themselves - I talk about, criticize, and otherwise complain about friends and family. But I am very selective with whom I share these feelings. In fact there are only 2 people that I am comfortable enough to 'vent' with. And it's not as if this is an every day occurrence. But on those occasions when it is necessary to blow off some steam, why hurt anyone's feelings. Besides, if things were reversed, I am sure I would prefer to remain ignorant of how people feel and/or what they say about me. Blissfulness is a nice state of mind.
    Be well,

    1. Hey Bob; Thanks for offering your "non-writer" perspective. Though I didn't mention specifically how regularly I've offended others with my "..spoken words or actions.." (vs. the written word), it's not because I don't do that all the time. As I said in my post, the taste of my foot is uncomfortably familiar based on how often it has been in my mouth. This post is more about my need to be more honest/less cowardly in my writing; it's in that domain that I recently realized there is work to be done. And, your comment has now reminded me that continuing to control my verbal gaffes is also a worthy endeavor. So thanks for that.