Self-Censorship

I wrote a blog post this morning that I am not going to share. At least not yet. I’ve sent it to the cooler to contemplate itself. As I do that, I am aware that in doing so I am practicing personal self-censorship.

To some extent self-censorship is fine. My personal policy is that I don’t talk about politics here and I’m good with that. Electoral politics is both transient and unnecessarily divisive. I’m glad to have that rule to guide me.

But every question has a political dimension. Since writing and literature wade into deeply human territory, they are necessarily political in the small, intimate sense. We make political choices each day.

Who we are friends with, who we love, how we practice our religion or express our values is political, even if we never enter the political arena. Do we keep it secret? Do we go out into the world to convert others? Do we advocate laws privileging one version over another? How do we deal with apostates? Only advocating a change in laws is technically political. But every choice has a political dimension and can inflame passionate dissent.

This is my weakness in writing. I fear causing offense. It stops me from finishing some stories. It stops me from sending out other stories. And today it stopped me from pressing Publish on a perfectly fine blog post.

I hope that you are stronger than I am today. I hope you walk your own truth and live with compassion toward others.

Be well, friends!

 

2 Comments Add yours

  1. For me, it’s not about expressing my opinion simply because I can or think I’m right–it’s about making sure that I don’t turn off a potential reader. I’ve stopped reading two award winning writers because they ruined the image of their books for me. One writer was very strong in his political opinion. He would spew politics non-stop on Facebook and threaten to ban anyone who didn’t agree with him. The other writer openly said “Don’t do politics” and then she succumbed to the siren call. Now when I see titles by them, I don’t think about the good story I would get. Instead I associate them with what they said in social media. Result: I’m not buying their books.

    On the other hand, you can take whatever the topic is and turn into a short story or a novel. I just read a series where the writer did just that. A war had just ended with a sort-of victory. People of both sides got thrown together, and over the course of the series, they became friends and the things they saw together made them question what both sides did.

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    1. I apologize. I think I have confused everyone. Thank you for your comment, it helps me understand how I am being received.

      I am specifically not talking about electoral politics. I am talking about the politics of personal identity and how my fear of offending people keeps me from writing and submitting both fiction and other material.

      Since the blog post I didn’t publish deals with someone else’s identity, I’ll use my own as an example. I am Jewish and grew up as part of a small weird part of Judaism called Reconstructionism.

      We live in a world where Jews are attacked, where synagogues are bombed, where attendees are killed. Whether I join a synagogue or not is a political statement because someone else makes it so. It is not merely religion. Being a Jew publicly invites comment and risk.

      Similarly, writing stories with Jewish characters is to invite trouble. This year, inspired by Mary Robinette Kowal’s excellent Lady Astronaut series, I purposely wrote a number of stories with Jewish characters to try to get over this self-censorship but failed to submit any of them because of fear.

      This is what I was trying to convey. Everything is political. Identity is political and how out you are about who you and who your friends are is a political act.

      This has always been the case for Jews. It is the case as well for people in the LGBT+ community, for people of other minority religions, for people in various ethnic and racial groups, and so forth.

      There is a choice to be made of whether to write from one’s deepest sensibilities and be brave about making people angry, potentially turning off readers who don’t like Jews or gays or whatever. Or to avoid all that in the name of a broader acceptance.

      I want to be a brave person, but I’m not there yet.

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