So I have this idea for a new book. And it is of the “inspirational” variety, but it has a different spin than most inspirational books. And I really, really want to write it, but the thing is, I keep censoring myself. I keep feeling like an inspirational book ought to be more pious or something. Like someone writing an “inspirational” book maybe shouldn’t be as rough around the edges as I still am. Maybe someone writing an inspirational book shouldn’t even be thinking the F word, let alone writing it. So I keep edging my real voice out of it, for fear of what a potential audience might think of me. I hate when potential audiences look down their noses at me.

I wish I didn’t give a rip. I wish I could just feel safe, and not really care what others thought of me. I know of plenty of writers who are far more edgy than I am. My perceived edginess would be a joke in their world. I also know plenty of writers who play it safe. Some play it so safe I want to like their book, but something is missing. Technically it has all it’s supposed to, it’s followed the formula to a T, but somehow it’s a little…oh…squeaky clean and flat.

Maybe the safe writers really never say the F word in real life, so for them, it is legit to never write it. (And I’m not just talking about the F word, I’m talking about all the dark places we don’t want others to see).

I am not a mean person. Never is it my intention to hurt anyone. And yet, I feel somehow wrong, just for thinking what I think, and feeling what I feel. I’m guarded. You would not believe how much I self-censor, even on this blog. Can’t write that. Can’t write that. Can’t write that. I’m so afraid of offending anyone. This didn’t used to be the case. In my early blogging years I was so angry, I just didn’t care. Somehow over the years I’ve unconsciously begun to equate spirituality with not offending. But that feels like shrinking. And that can’t be right.

Writers especially get all up in arms over banned books. Censorship! Bad!

What about the books that never get written due to censorship in the writer’s own mind?

Potential audience? I’m asking you to move, and I’d like that space in my mind back. You’ve been squatting there too long.

You go be you.

I gotta be me.

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13 Responses to Censorship

  1. Maria says:

    Write as bravely as you can without the self censor on. Write it as if no one will read it. You can always go back and modify if you think it’s right to do so.

    BTW, loved the first book. πŸ™‚

  2. Kathi says:

    Just try and write it like a journal entry no one will ever see just to “get it out.” It will probably be easier to slip under the censor’s nose. I know what you mean though. You could also try a couple of glasses of wine or a few beers to get past it and tell the censor to F off. HA HA.

  3. Carrie Link says:

    I hear you. I have the same conversations in my head, too. I guess the question is always, what is the intention behind the writing?

  4. kario says:

    The most compelling books I’ve ever read are the ones that go to those darkest places nobody else wants to go. Your courage in your every day life and in your writing are such an inspiration to so many people that a book you consider inspirational will be amazing. I promise.

  5. Meg says:

    No matter what you say or do, someone will be unpleased. So what? Play some Pink (the uncensored version) and get the F on with it! What is truly inspirational IMHO is the struggle and struggles by their very nature involve conflict and rough edges and dark places. Who better than you to shine your light on all of that?

  6. I don’t know a writer in the world who is any good who doesn’t worry about this question (and I know a lot of writers). It’s a fair question, and might become easier to look at when rephrased: “What language and approach can I use to best REACH my readers?” It’s not a question of pleasing them, it’s a question of reaching them. Will swearing and roughness be the best tool to get your thoughts into their brains? Will it communicate *exactly* the tone you want, without making them shut down? (And I should point out that readers are very, very resilient: it takes a LOT to make a reader shut down.)

    Your readers are trusting you to take them somewhere they need to be. They are trusting you that whatever roughness, whatever edginess, is there — has to be there and will not damage them (even if it makes them a little uncomfortable). They trust you because they know you love them. That love will make sure that you don’t step over the line.

    The writers who really upset and anger me with their edginess are the ones who are doing it ON PURPOSE to shock, ON PURPOSE to show how edgy they really are. It’s about them as clever, clever, ΓΌber-cool writers, not about the story, and only about the readers insofar as the readers become props in their little internal drama about how edgy they are.

    You are not that person.

    — Laura

  7. KFuller says:

    Write that book with no self censoring. Write it as if no one but you will read it! When you are done, you can take out what you feel you need to. I am betting you will leave it as is.

  8. Kathee says:

    Michelle, I agree with everybody above! This may be strange but when I think of your blog and your voice, the thing I remember is a post from years ago… It was something brief and it was about being done with blogging about and discussing the autism/vaccine controversy. I remember reading that and thinking “whoa”! And “right on”. I was knee-deep in the same issue and I felt the same way as you. I don’t have a blog but when I read your post I also changed my tune about that issue. I was done trying to explain my beliefs and getting entangled in crazy discussions. So… my point is I think that post was a glimpse of this voice you are writing about. Please don’t censor – please write a bunch of books in that voice – reading something in that voice changed my life and gave me some peace. thank you.

  9. Amanda says:

    I will say only this; how inspirational do you think a book will be if it isn’t a genuine reflection of how the writter feels and thinks?

    Love the blog, loved the first book (and I’m not an avid memoir reader) so would read more of what you write anyway. The thing I come back to in thinking about you as a person/author is you strive to be an honest “good” person and as long as you keep true to you how will it be wrong? People wil be inspired by your journey, not your destination.

  10. Amanda says:

    PS I would add that there are parts of your book I was thinking “Wow!”, that were shocking to my sheltered Brit life but it didn’t stop me reading it πŸ™‚

  11. Stephanie says:

    There are those who either never took those words into their vocabulary or excised them from it. There are others who write from a place of hope and light to begin with, and simply don’t need them.

    However, I think it is a mistake to think you need to write from the light and only the light to inspire. Many of us–most who need inspiration–have been to some pretty dark places. To avoid those places when they are part of you and part of what you’re writing about perpetuates a myth or a belief that we cannot rise above them, back into the light.

    Write from the heart, first and foremost. Leaving editing for the mind–for later. Get it down. Just keep on writing. If you need to, tell yourself that you’ll leave in just for now and if it doesn’t work, you can always change it later.

  12. amber says:

    Damn! My other comment didn’t log in from a day ago!
    What I said was, if you DON’T say fuck at least once a page, I ain’t readin’ it.


  13. Wanda says:

    Love this post. I have those conversations in my head. All. The. Time. I use the F word so much that I rubbed the bump off the F-home-key on my computer. But that’s in my world–not my public world.

    I haven’t figured out how to stop the censorship yet. I’d love to hear your process.

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