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Monday, April 05, 2004

My mother-in-law doesn't want anyone pawing through her stuff when she dies, so to prevent that, she plans to leave nothing behind. Papers, photos, dust collectors, documents on her hard drive, "Down the chute!" as she likes to say. Her motives are partly to relieve her survivors from the responsibility of disposing of all those items, and partly privacy.

After seeing the vast amounts of photos, scrapbooks, and personal papers, including a fourteen volume diary, that my father-in-law, BL, left behind, I can certainly see her point. It is a burden to those who survive you. You can't throw it away. You have to store it. Somewhere. Who needs all that in addition to all the junk you already own? Much of BL's writing is important family and town history, and much of it is probably stuff he never meant anyone to read.

But then, isn't that what writers do? They leave behind bits and pieces of themselves, some meant to be discovered and shared and others, better left unseen. Do I want that kind of paper trail? I'm not sure.

My mother once told me to never put anything down on paper that you wouldn't want everyone to see. I learned my lesson the hard way when I drew a picture, a very good one too, of my Social Studies teacher, Miss DiColo, dressed as a Nazi, tucked it safely in my Social Studies book and then left the book behind in my haste to leave her dreadful class.

There are stories I'd like to write, one obviously autobiographical, but can I live with the repercussions? How do writers balance self-expression with self-censorship and still manage to tell their tales? Do you just give up caring what people will think? I'm close to that point, but I do worry about what my children and husband will think.

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