A friend sent me an article from the New York Times that got me thinking about censorship. Not other people censoring us as writers but a tendency we may have to censor ourselves.
When I thought about it, I realized how often I’ve heard authors worry about what others will think of their work. I know that when I first started writing I thought in terms of: What will so and so think if I write that? These days I’m more likely to think: I hope so and so isn’t too upset when he/she sees what I wrote!
In other words, I no longer let those fears stop me from writing what I think a given story needs but I am still conscious of the impact it may have.
This isn’t an issue that only applies to writers. One can easily extrapolate it to life itself. How often do we do or not do something because of what someone else might think? How often do we do something and hope so and so won’t be too upset when he/she finds out?
Whether in writing or life, it’s a kind of dance we go through: balancing our place in a community and/or family vs. what our hearts and souls call us to do. Too worried and we never truly write or live. Too unconcerned and we may alienate those we care about.
The key, I think, is to do what we must. To follow our hearts and souls and the path that is uniquely ours—whether in our writing or in our lives. And at the same time to be sure that we express our love to those we care about. We need to be certain we do not disconnect. We can also encourage those we love to do what matters most to them—even if it sometimes makes us uncomfortable. There are ways to say: This matters to me AND I care how you feel. What could we do to work this out? At least then there’s a chance we can all be happier than if we never try.
The longer I live the more I’ve come to believe that none of us can know what the right path is for someone else—not in their writing or in how they live their lives. For each of us, the greatest likelihood of success comes when we follow our dreams and our passions. The stories that come alive are the ones the writer cared about. The people who seem to have doors open for them in their careers are the ones who are doing what they love.
I see that clearly with my daughter. Every time she made an unorthodox choice, it ended up working to her advantage precisely because she made the choice based on what she truly cared about. It paid off getting into Stanford, it paid off with job interviews, and I expect it will continue to do so all her life.
I believe that one reason I was able to have 28 Regencies published is because it’s a genre I loved writing. I always had fun with the stories I created.
So...censorship. It’s a problem when it’s imposed from without; it’s even more devastating when we impose it on ourselves. If we’re writers, we need, at least in that first draft, to write from the deepest core of our own truth. We can go back later and look at it from a more impartial perspective and there may be times we choose to soften or take something out. But if we don’t risk putting it in, in the first place, we won’t have a chance to discover what it is we can truly say. And in our lives, if we don’t risk at least dreaming about the things that could truly make us happy we may never have a chance to find out if they would and perhaps discover a way to keep the people we care about in our lives AND do what matters most to us.