Wednesday, April 11, 2007

When Writers Should “Self-Censor”: Things Writers Shouldn’t Write About

Publisher's Note: Three things today readers.

First, I want to apologize for not updating regularly these past few weeks. My recent car accident and a backlog of projects have kept me busy. I'll only be updating about thrice (love that "old English-sounding" word) weekly for the next two months or so, until I get caught up.

Second, my work-from-home freelance writing e-books have been offline since August of last year. Yikes! I've been revamping, revising and planning to migrate them to Clickbank. But, alas, life -- and projects! -- interfere.

So, I've decided to put them back on until I can find the time to do the migration. (It might take a working vacation to ge this done.) I've received so many requests that I'll have them back up this weekend.

Third, today's post addresses an idea that's been rolling around in my head. As I do a lot of work online, it's just a rant/observation I want to get off my chest. Feel free to chime in!

As always, editorially yours,
Y. Black, Publisher

When Writers Should “Self-Censor”
Things Writers Shouldn’t Write About

As writers, most think that no topic is off limits. After all, we’re creative beings and live in a country where the First Amendment (the right to free speech, among other things for those who don’t know) is the holy grail of journalism.

However, I find that there are some things that writers shouldn’t write about.

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I. Personal things: Blogs have brought to the forefront this idea of spilling one’s guts on the internet – not to the betterment of society in my somewhat anti-social opinion. I’m sorry but, I don’t want to know about every woman your husband cheated with, every girlfriend that ever did you wrong, or every vegetable your kid threw up. Some things should just stay private.

I know, I know, I don’t have to read it. But, sometimes, I feel tricked. I’ll be all into a good missive on a topic I genuinely had an interest in and then – whammo! – out of the blue, some personal rant is included that blindsides me.

I’m a keen supporter of using personal stories to illustrate a point, but some personal issues just scream to be left private. Listen to that and put it into a tell-all novel – preferably under a pseudonym.

I’m amazed that some families survive what their family members put on the web. Don’t let that blue state, mad state, revenge state of mind color the rest of your life. Don’t people realize that this stuff is there – like, er rum – FOREVER!

How to Self-Censor In This Area: Email your nearest and dearest friends, which will accomplish your goal – to purge. This is, in my opinion, really all one wants to accomplish when such personal info is revealed online for all to read.

NOTE: Five years from now, if it’s not something you’d want someone to know, keep it to your self.

II. Things you don’t like to write about: One of the things I love about blogging is the freedom to write about what I want to write about. HOWEVER, as with most freedoms, this is a double-edged sword.

I update this blog 3-5 times a week. I’m constantly updating my list of topics about which to write.

Usually, I’ll just write down a headline or a one-sentence idea. Depending on how tired I am, what projects are on my desk and/or what time of the day I’m sitting down to write a post, I’ll scan the list and pick out the topics I want to write on.

Every once in a while, I’ll choose a topic that just stumps me. Either I can’t come up with anything at all (this is extremely rare), or what I come up with is just not working, for whatever reason.

I’ve learned to let these topics go. I still keep them on the list, but tackle them at a later time – or not at all.

I guess the point is, if a topic is not coming together – no matter the reason – I don’t fight it anymore. If I’m having difficulty, it usually means it’s something I don’t like to write about, so I choose another topic – or tackle another activity.

After all, as I said before, the beauty of blogging is that you can write about what you want, right?

How to Self-Censor In This Area: To twist Nike's slogan, "Just DON'T Do It!" Move on.

III. Vitriol among “professionals”: As in, attacking other’s views. I’m not talking about intelligent discourse, but vitriolic attacks that do nothing but spew venom – no points made, no counter-intelligent arguments, no redeeming social value commentary – just mean-spirited attacks.

The anonymity of the Internet makes it easy for those who engage in this type of behavior to use bajillions of megabytes of space.

Imagine if engaging, well-thought-out, positive exchanges could take the place of all the vitriol on the web. We could solve the problems of the Middle East and provide the answer to Imus’ ignorance in no time.

How to Self-Censor In This Area: An old idiomatic expression solves this – “If you ain’t part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” In other words, if you can’t provide valuable insight, just shut up and go have yourself a stiff drink!

Writers are creative, intelligent, insightful creatures who have a lot to offer – when they choose to exercise the right of “self censorship.”
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Lillie Ammann said...

Excellent advice. As you say, intelligent discourse should be encouraged; vitriol should be eliminated. I quit reading blogs that have a lot of personal rants.

Inkwell Editorial said...

As comical as some of the personal rants can be, Lillie, I simply don't have time to invest in stuff like this.

I wish more blogs made me think -- gave me some meat to turn over in my "want-to-turn-to-mush brain", but alas, most just send me looking for a good book, a newspaper, or a stiff drink!