Friday, January 5, 2007


I'm not talking about book banning, I'm talking about self-censorship. A lot of writers have the image of some family member or beloved elderly person perched on their shoulder whispering in their ear "don't write that, that might upset someone." As a result they have flat characters, dry plots and stories that just don't have the truth and emotion that they need to fly. Writing is about making yourself vulnerable. It's a kind of nakedness on the page. I don't want to read some "polite" story that your grandmother Lulu approved of.

I want to read something gripping, a little bit bad, just a touch controversial. Not controversy for the sake of it to be a drama hound...but because somewhere deep down, it's true. The truth always pisses someone off.

Too many people write with Grandmother Lulu's voice of disapproval constantly in their ear. First of all, her biggest problem isn't if you write something dirty or offensive. Her FIRST problem is that her name is Grandmother Lulu...

You're always going to offend someone. If you come anywhere close to the truth of any real emotion or story worth telling or reading SOMEONE will be offended. Someone will whisper to their ladies league of decency about you. Some school board will have a hay day. Some minister's wife will turn her nose up when she passes you on the street.

I hate to say this, but SO WHAT? If writing is your passion and your calling you'll rise above it. You don't need to be faithful to Grandmother Lulu you need to be faithful to your characters and stories. If you must, write under a pen name, but be honest. Tell me what is deep inside you.

I don't want to hear your surface stories, I want the stuff buried underneath. If you can't share that, why should we care? There are a lot of books out there, and a lot of writers willing to give us that on the page. Be one of them.


Michelle said...

There is an excellent RWA workshop I listened too from last year's RWA conference (I bought the Conference CDs, well worth it) on this topic. The speaker talks of how there is usually one person we don't want to offend. One person we censor ourselves for, and talks of ways to throw that self-censorship off. Because you're right. Censoring ourselves is not going to get us anywhere. We've got Hollywood taking the easy road for us. We need to take the hard road.

Edie said...

I think when we're in a critique group for too long, we tend to write what we know they'll like, even changing our voices. That said, I love my critique group and don't feel censored by them. I definitely don't feel censored by anyone else.

Zoe Winters said...

Yep, I told my family (who is deeply religious): "I'm writing trashy romance and I'm writing it under a pen name. You won't be shamed in public. Get over it."

These were more or less my exact words. They kind of gave me this look like they weren't sure what to do with it, and then they said "ok"