Space invaders…

Lately, I’ve had a yearning to write fiction. I had that same hankering a year ago and even started a fiction blog. I took it down because a former (?) reader erroneously assumed she knew what my first story was going to be about and, for whatever reason, couldn’t restrain herself from invading my privacy and monitoring my online activities. This former reader (?), the tenant before me at our last house, is “friends” with my ex landlady and, evidently, has been returning and reporting to her about me for years. She as much as admitted it some months ago when she chastised me for being creative “in my space”. At the same time, this woman is very protective of her own online privacy and goes as far as to use fake names and other measures to minimize her online footprint. I guess she figures that since I don’t take the same extreme measures she does, I’m not deserving of privacy and basic respect.

It always amazes me when people who are protective of their privacy don’t exercise that same courtesy to others. I remember about eight years ago, Bill and I took a cruise and struck up a conversation with a guy from Texas who was extremely concerned about his privacy. During the cruise, he’d taken videos and pictures, and once he had returned to Texas, uploaded some videos to YouTube. When we got home from the cruise, the guy sent me an email offering to send me links to his unlisted YouTube videos of the parts that included Bill and me. But his offer included a lot of “strings attached”. For instance, he wrote that I wasn’t to share the links with anyone or show the videos to anyone who wasn’t Bill or me. It didn’t seem to occur to him that maybe we would have preferred not to be in his YouTube videos, unlisted or otherwise.

Actually, I realize that I’m probably in a lot of pictures and videos taken by others. People have probably written about me, too, the way I have written about others. There’s nothing I can do about that, so I don’t go searching to read other people’s thoughts on me. They’re none of my business, and knowing about them will only disrupt my peace. However, while I didn’t mind that the guy had included us in his videos and pictures, I didn’t really want to see myself in our acquaintance’s cruise videos, and wasn’t interested in receiving the links. I am not “camera ready”, so seeing myself in pictures and hearing myself in videos makes me cringe, and would have probably ruined my memories of what was mostly a great trip. I tried to tell him so in a roundabout way, but he didn’t quite get it. For some reason, being subtle and “polite” wasn’t getting the message across. So I was forced to be blunt, and tell him in no uncertain terms that we weren’t interested in seeing his videos. That seemed to offend him, even though our disinterest in the videos had nothing to do with him personally. I never heard from him again, which suited me just fine.

A year ago, I wrote about how I wanted to start a fiction blog with stories based on people and situations that annoy me. It’s something I do to blow off steam. The vast majority of people who inspire me don’t read my blog and, even if they did, don’t care enough about me or my opinions to be upset over an obviously made up story. The stories are all made up, even if the characters are sometimes based on real people. It would be impossible not to be inspired by real people when I write fiction, although I mostly try to vary them enough so that the characters are clearly fiction.

Anyway, this former (?) reader made the wrong assumption that the first story I was writing was going to be about someone she knows offline– the ex landlady’s daughter. What she evidently didn’t know is that the person she assumed my story was about was someone I had never actually met. In fact, I didn’t even know that person’s first name until I got a private message accusing me of writing a “nasty” story about her. The story wasn’t developed enough to be “nasty” and I’m not the type of person to go as low as what she was accusing me of, anyway. Former reader (?) simply assumed that I was going to do what I’d done in the past, even though I had started a completely new blog and it was a different concept than the snarky stories she’d read in my main blog.

While I can see why she came to the erroneous conclusion that I was going to “smear” her friend because the character had a physical characteristic that was similar to one her friend has, the story I was going to write wasn’t about her friend. Moreover, the character she objected to was going to be a minor player and, aside from having a prominent physical characteristic like her friend’s, wasn’t based on her at all. It couldn’t be, because I don’t even know her friend. We’ve never met, although I think Bill might have met her once. All I remember Bill saying was that her friend spoke excellent English, worked as a teacher, and seemed very intelligent. He never even mentioned what she looked like, nor did he tell me her name. I was never introduced to any of the ex landlady’s family members, aside from her husband. I don’t think she had enough regard for me to introduce me to her daughters. They were complete strangers to me.

Moreover, I know other people besides her friend who have that particular physical condition. If she had allowed me time to write more than a couple of chapters, she would have found that out very quickly, and realized that her fears were unfounded. The story was actually inspired by someone entirely different, and if she’d kept reading, that would have been abundantly clear. The truth is, I don’t even know how the story was going to end. I don’t usually have the whole story in my head when I write. A lot of times, the stories take on lives of their own as I compose them.

The blog was up for a matter of hours before I got a bitchy private message from the former (?) reader, shaming me and accusing me of something I hadn’t even done yet. I was very tempted to respond to her ridiculous accusations, but I had already blocked her on Facebook before she’d messaged me and decided I didn’t want to unblock her just so I could plead my case. I realized that no good could come from communicating with her, especially since she’d made it clear that she and her friends had been violating my privacy and probably laughing about me among themselves for years. She’d already made up her mind about me and wasn’t going to be dissuaded by reason.

I had tried to be understanding and accommodating to her in the past, when she was “uncomfortable” with something I’d written that she felt was wrong or unfair. On more than one occasion, I had edited something I’d written because she’d requested it. But I also knew that she’d read how I feel about people “invading my space” and trying to tell me what I can and can’t write about. In her last note to me, she’d sarcastically commented on how she “knew she was invading my space” as she then falsely accused me of attempting to “smear” her friend. In reality, she clearly didn’t respect my space at all, and felt that my comments about “space invaders” didn’t apply to her. I could tell that she didn’t have any regard for me as a person or respect for what I do. So, at that time, I chose not to directly respond to her comment and simply moved my blogs. She didn’t have the self-discipline to leave me alone, so I made the decision for her.

Moving the blogs has been a mixed bag. It took awhile to get used to the new format. I’m still learning about how to operate with WordPress, as Blogger was a lot easier to use and cost me nothing. I’ve lost a lot of readers, which is kind of a blow to the ego– although the ones who read now are of better quality and, in some ways, it’s nicer to have a more intimate audience. WordPress has one feature that I really love, and that’s the ability to password protect posts so that they don’t either have to be shared with everyone or be made completely private. There are people who genuinely like what I do and haven’t accused me of being someone I’m not simply because they don’t like me. Those are the ones I write this blog for, besides myself. It’s good that I can share some posts with those people and lock out “space invaders” like my former (?) stalker. It’s also good that I can shut down individual posts that become problematic.

After I got that very insulting private message from “Facebook user”, I decided it wasn’t worth it to indulge my desire to write fiction at that time. I took down the blog and spent the next few months a bit traumatized, even though the former (?) reader was wrong about my intentions and is wrong about me. She evidently thinks she knows me, though, because she was apparently an avid reader of my writings and assumes that I reveal everything in my blogs. Actually, I don’t. Even if I did write everything about my life in my blogs, she still doesn’t know me, hasn’t made the attempt to understand me, and I doubt she has the ability to “mindread”. In fact, I don’t even think she’s particularly good at gathering intel.

While it’s true that in the past, I’ve written snarky fiction stories about people who have pissed me off, I had no intention of writing anything along those same lines in the story she’d complained about. But even if had, why was it her job to intrude? Did she expect me to run my posts past her to see if they passed muster? Would she like it if I monitored her on the Internet? Because… she’s not as anonymous as she thinks she is.

It’s been a year. I want to write fiction. I have insurance up to the eyeballs. I could probably do it with little risk. But, if I’m honest, I’m still feeling kind of violated. This whole situation has left me gun shy and traumatized. It’s only been within the past few weeks that I’ve started feeling comfortable again about writing, which is a real tragedy, since that’s what I’ve done since I was a child. I know not everyone likes or appreciates me, but writing keeps me sane and engages my mind. I feel like I should be allowed to do it, even if some people get offended. I wish those who don’t like what I’d do would simply move on to their next Internet station and leave me alone. In fact, that’s the best way to avoid “inspiring” me. Simply leave me alone.

So… maybe I will start that blog, after all. But if I do, it will be to invited readers only, at least at first. I will say this, though… the story I wanted to write will eventually come out. Even if you convince me to stop writing something at the time, I have the rest of my life to write my stories. I’ve written stuff based on things that happened decades ago. I can wait… and during the time I’m waiting, my imagination will be working. Maybe the story that comes out later will be even better than it would have been. We’ll see.