How do we censor ourselves? What do we do when others try to silence us?
In the middle of the political debates, these topics have risen to the top: the right to speak, the right to be silent, and the power of words. Every day we witness word battles on TV and on social media. And when we’re writing, we find ourselves with our own struggles to say our truths and how much to keep our silence. We live in a world where what we say and how we say it can ultimately reach many people, and quickly. In the heat of the moment, we may wish to take back our words that have already flown out into the world, but sometimes that spontaneous expression is our most authentic self. One thing is for certain, if you are a writer, you’re aware that you have an audience, that you can reach out in a huge way to the rest of the world—through your stories, your blog posts, your online writing groups, and through social media. Often social media can be a way to try to right wrongs, or it can be used to attack. As always, we can choose what we say and how we say it.
But what if others try to silence us? What if our stories have ventured into the realm of discomfort for some readers?
When I hear about instances of censorship in the writing world, I draw upon my own philosophy of how I prefer to run writing groups, whether in person or online, and how I support writers. For the last twenty years I have conducted writing workshops in which I define our context as “a safe, sacred space” where what needs to be revealed can be without censure. A place where feelings and secrets that have been hidden for a long time can come into the light of day so the writer can view these issues from all sides. So what is in the dark can come into the light. That does not mean that everything written will be golden, or that everyone will be comfortable, including the writer. In fact, discomfort is often the result of honest writing, of digging deep to find truths that were hidden or unbidden or even previously unknown by us, buried somewhere in our unconscious minds.
If we as readers are uncomfortable with what we read or hear, it’s an opportunity to look within ourselves to see what button is being triggered. It is never right for us to silence the writer. Their story belongs to them, and comes from a unique point of view. I’m not talking about trash talking or vicious personal attacks here—I’m referring to the authentic stories that are struggling to be released. As a writing community we not only need to invite these stories, but to support the writer’s right to have their story.
We are living during a time when our true and authentic stories desperately need to be told. We are the voices, the witnesses, to what we have seen, lived, and experienced. This is personal history that’s being revealed, which paints a picture of our times, of who we are worldwide as people. We are in a global community and all the stories matter. All stories offer a window into worlds many of us don’t know, but need to know about.
I wish you all the freedom to write, to express and to be received with compassion and good will.