While browsing Huffington Post’s website today, I came across an article on a topic I don’t believe I have talked very much about on this blog (if at all)- censorship. This is a daily struggle that authors of all genres experience on many different levels. Obviously, censorship is most important when you are writing nonfiction, a memoir, or biography. When things get too political, violent, or intimate we tend to second guess every word we put down on the page. Am I going to offend someone? Is the scene too vulgar? I am going to drive readers away? We lose focus of our goal, telling a truthful story, and spend more time worrying about what details to spare and what we might be able to paint in a ‘prettier’ light.
Fiction writers deal with the very same thing, in a different way. Our society has ingrained into our brains to always worry about what other people are going to think. After each scene, page, or chapter we are left wondering how readers will respond to our writing. We forget what we want and start writing for what we think other people want. Your story slowly becomes a product of societal influences, rather than the story you originally set out to write.
Whether we are contemplating which details of our dark past to leave out or searching for the ultimate ending we think our fans are looking for, Rachel Thompson perfectly captures the downfalls of censorship. We may feel like we are doing the right thing in the moment, but the only person you are cheating in the end is yourself.
Censorship allows others to made decisions for you.
If you find yourself censoring your writing, then your writing is no longer truly yours. You are letting outside influences affect you to the point that you are actually changing your work for them… crazy, right? It happens so naturally and quickly that sometimes we don’t even realize it. Your finished product may be more ‘public-friendly’ but was that really the story you set out to tell? The best thing you can do for your writing is stay true to yourself and your story.
Shame leads to censorship.
Our society dictates what’s right and wrong. When something ‘wrong’ happens to us we think twice before telling someone about it. What will people think of me if I confess what happened? Will they believe me? Will they be embarrassed of me? When we think about writing about something ‘wrong’ we ask the very same questions. Shame is a powerful tool that keeps us from sharing our emotions and experiences. Shame keeps us from expressing ourselves. Hiding in shame won’t solve any problems, you have the right to speak your mind. I bet you will find many new supporters along the way and that shame will quickly wash away, in turn making you a stronger and better person for it.
Censorship is risky.
There’s always risk involved with saying what’s on your mind. Someone is going to disagree with you or be offended by what you had to say. Some will even voice their opinion back at you. But censoring yourself is also risky. You want to be happy with your writing and you want your writing to make you feel good. Will you find happiness in writing that isn’t truly what you had meant it to be? Probably not. You need to ask yourself what’s riskier. The best writing pushes risk to its extremes. Be a little different, speak what’s on your mind, and take the risk.