Totally off limits

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 10.22.51 AMI often think I have no filter.

There was the time I told my two year old about Hitler and he decided not to be Jewish. There was that other time I told my friend that her outfit wasn’t flattering and had six months of misery trying to sort that out. I wrote about my semi step father’s toe nails and almost alienated him. Whoops I might have done it again. I talk about money and sex. I told a friend about her boyfriend cheating and almost wiped out a 5 year relationship. The list goes on.

There is one subject that shows that I have a filter. I have not written about my husband’s family.

I am also not writing about them today.

When I read books on writing they all recommend pretending your family doesn’t read your work. I always interpreted that as allowing sex and drugs and bad language to fill your page if it wants to. Many people from my daily life and show up in my writing. Sometimes they are disguised, sometimes they gleam with the unique characteristics that make them easily identifiable. It is the hazard of befriending a writer.

Steve’s family didn’t choose me.  They didn’t choose to be revealed through my eyes, in my words. It is difficult to keep them off the page. I have done it for 12 years and I will do it for 12 more. Sometimes the window is open to observe all that goes on in another person’s life. And sometimes the window is shuttered and covered with vines. I’m not sure I have the tools to open it up and shed light into that room.

What about you fellow writers? Is there anything that is TOTALLY off limits? What do you think of my small slice of filter?

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Anna Palmer

Anna Rosenblum Palmer is a freelance writer based in Denver, CO. She writes about sex, parenting, cat pee, bi-polar disorder and the NFL; all things inextricably intertwined with her mental health. In her free time she teaches her boys creative swear words, seeks the last missing puzzle piece and thinks deeply about how she is not exercising. Her writing can be found on Babble,, Great Moments in Parenting, Ravishly, Good Men Project, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Playpen, Crazy Good Parent, and YourTango. She also does a fair amount of navel gazing on her own blog at

15 thoughts on “Totally off limits”

  1. This is quite an interesting post. I also feel unable to really hang it all out there with specific people in my life. The friend struggling with her son’s sexual orientation, the family stories that are somewhat scandalous. I feel I would be disrespecting human beings who are dear to me. Instead, I use composites of people and situations in an attempt to disguise specifics. I haven’t really had anything published yet, so I’m sure this issue will surface again.

  2. I don’t write about my in-laws. I wrote one post long ago about family visits. It was innocuous. Not one bad thing was written about them but one read more into my words than intended, resulting in a fight of epic proportions. Since that time, I never really mention them even though I speak about my family often. I can’t deal with their bullshit and don’t want to cause rifts with my husband and his family. So, I get it.

  3. There are things and people I could – and some days want to – wrote about. I do agree that a writer’s content has to be their own choice and that they should have the freedom to say what they want. I also feel like I have to think about the subjects and people that would be included in that category. I choose not to write about certain people and events on my blog out of respect for other people’s privacy, and out of respect for my own privacy. And also because some stories are just not mine to tell. I try to ask myself how I would feel if something negative or critical or overly private showed up about me on someone else’s page and use that as sort of a guide. It is a difficult thing though. I think ultimately you have to follow your heart.

  4. I think the only filter I have is when talking about my kids. Because, I do want them to read my words; my oldest already has read a few pieces. I am careful not to label them, not to needlessly criticize them, and not to write anything that would humiliate them!

  5. I think that is a sensible filter to have. I am the other extreme though. I don’t write anything personal about anyone at all. I am more comfortable with that, but I can see that it is limiting as people seem to like the revealing and personal stuff, so to be private and semi-anonymous I think makes people connect to you less. I do agree with you though – I think even for those who are very open, careful thought needs to be given to revealing things about a partner’s family, unless you are very sure that they are happy with it. Regarding telling your son about Hitler, my OH put on Sound of Music (which I do not like) for our 2 year old (excellent choice) & went out. When the Nazis went into Austria she asked who they were. The best explanation I could think of? ‘They’re the big bad wolves. Very naughty wolves!’

  6. I don’t write about my wife’s family unless they do something outstanding; translation: I don’t write about them.

    I try to avoid deliberately offend in someone unless it’s a public figure such as a politician or a Kardashian.

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