There is censor lurking in the mind of each and every writer. It’s that voice that says: “how safe are these words?” Or, “who will this offend or hurt?” Or, “what will people think?”
This voice will kill your writing, but few of us can resist it.
That does not mean to say you should not try.
Never mind Yoda with his “there is no try, only do.” He’s a fictional character made of latex and as such not an arbiter of anything. Never mind him. Mind you. Resistance is not futile.
Deep within your subconscious there is a flip-flop belief switch of right and wrong. It may have been modified by nature or nurture but it exists in us all, except people with sociopathic or psychopathic personalities. Yeah, you don’t know who you are…
This switch makes all of our emotional, moral and ethical decisions, within the limits imposed upon it. Often, it will flip-flop so rapidly that an answer to the dilemma posed seems at best indefinite and at worst lost in a morass of obscurity.
But the switch exists. And, it is wise to remember that it will use all your experiences, including prejudices and your wish to survive, prosper and be happy, to decide what is best for you.
At the core of this process is that element of you that controls the switch. This switch is not always right. It will always play the safe shot to ensure you feel both right and vindicated in your judgements. Even deeper within your subconscious is The Fat Controller – the one who can override the switch. More of him later.
This post came about because a writer in one of my groups on Linked In asked whether she should publish a work of fiction in which characters were based upon real people and a real situation, but which was emotionally significant to her and a near relative. She was concerned about the effect and possible repercussions of publishing.
One of my free short stories, “The 500”, is about abortion, guilt and redemption. The subject is contentious and both sides of the argument are firmly entrenched. My story is about one woman but is based upon the experiences of several. If you feel you would like to, please read it and let me know what you think (see link, to the right). Many people have done so already, some think it reflects reality, others disagree.
It’s fiction, but it’s based on reality. It came from my desire to offer up a viewpoint that is often drowned in guilt, political correctness and vested interest. It’s my viewpoint, but it’s wrapped up in all the trappings of fiction.
I stand by what I have written.
If a reader does not like what I’ve written, then it is their right never to read me again. I can live with that. I would only say in defence that there are many ideas from authors with which I find issue, but I would never dismiss an author on the basis of one viewpoint – I’ve made that mistake too many times in the past!
Now, I’m not particularly brave. I would fight to the death to protect my family, but I would have pause for thought if I had to give my life for a political ideal, a religion or ‘the greater good’. Why? Because the beliefs of humans are subject to change. The political ideology of today becomes the redundant mistake of tomorrow; a religion I might believe in now may not be what I believe in ten years or ten minutes time. As for the ‘greater good’ that usually means for the greater good of one vested interest group or another.
What’s left? Bare bones. Core beliefs. We like to believe in love, loyalty, honesty, respect, altruism and kindness. We believe these qualities to be true aspects of human behaviour because we know that they exist. We also know that hatred, disloyalty, dishonesty, disrespect, self-interest and cruelty exist.
But, there are some of beliefs we know are right, no matter how external pressures try to reinvent or blur the distinction. And, on the fringes of that near-certainty of opinion are the things we know are unknowable and therefore upon which we cannot make judgement.
My belief that abortion is causing the death of another being is not a belief for which I would die. It is a belief I would fight to have heard and one I would argue with anyone, but I am aware that there is a difference between an abortion undertaken as a life style choice or a lazy form of contraception and one in which there is a stark choice between the life of the mother or the child. However, it’s not for me to lecture others about their choices – I don’t have to carry either the guilt or relief of having to make that choice. But, I can write about it and offer a perspective.
Which brings me to The Fat Controller.
There are times when the flip-flop is indecisive and even when a decision seems to be made there is still a lingering doubt. Enter the FC. He will override safety when the decision is a wrong ‘un or when no decision has been made.
The FC is that deep, inner voice that makes you feel uncomfortable – usually because you are taking a risk or hiding behind your ego – the voice that is actually your truth. It’s the bit in the middle of “To Thine Own Self Be True.”
If you are a writer who is not cynical about your profession, not world-weary and not filled with the desire to sell your soul for any scrap of fame and glory, then it is the most important aspect of your writing. If you are, then ride roughshod over it.
You will probably get away with it for a time, because life is not just. At some point it will come back and bite you in the arse in unexpected ways. Of course I may be wrong, but I’m very old and I’ve found the universe notices the build up of unnecessary detritus and shovels it away.
Life and art mimic each other constantly and often blend together seamlessly. Be fearless and write your truth.
It’s your job.