Fear Beyond Words. An apt title for a topic to which those of us who juggled kids and words can relate. Will we ever have time to write again?
However, that is not what I want to write about in this post today.
A Facebook friend recently advised me to be cautious about what I post on social media that could be controversial, such as political issues, as it may not help my career to get in the middle of contentious debates. Not that I want to get in the middle of an ongoing rant, but I do like to speak my mind, and perhaps no longer hold back when there is something racist or sexist, or just plain rude and obnoxious or ill-informed posted on Facebook.
On Twitter, I just ignore the junk.
My friend offered that counsel in the nicest, most well-meaning way, but I don’t agree that we should hold back just because we run the risk of angering people to the point of losing followers and money. I thought a lot about that after I read a post by Erin Hensley Schultz on her blog, It’s Fine. She titled the essay So Which Is It? and it challenges us as writers to think about whether we want to be quiet about social issues. Her post starts:
I’m scared to post this. I’m afraid of alienating people I love, people I interact with on a daily basis, people whose friendships I value. I wouldn’t say this if it hadn’t been weighing heavy, like a 50 pound weight on my tongue every time I open my mouth to say something and stop before it comes out because I don’t want to stir the pot. I don’t want anyone to be mad at me. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. But I can’t, in good conscience, do that anymore.She goes on to say, that she is putting her fears aside and writing about racism. She says she has no right to complain about racism, but she has a duty to complain about racism.
Interesting point. Do we all have a duty to complain about social injustices?
I think we do, and I basically said that in my response to my Facebook friend. I believe writers owe it to the public to be a voice of reason and truth, and if that means taking a risk, so be it. It used to be that we only took a risk by putting our thoughts about issues into our books and letting them belong to one of our characters. We can still do that, if it fits that character, but we can also be a voice in cyberspace to counter whatever awful things start filling the Internet.
We can do it with thoughtfulness, respect, and civility.
So I will continue to post things on Facebook and Twitter that challenge people to think about the important social issues. I am a writer and an activist, and the two can happily live together. I won’t rant. I won’t call names – although it is hard to resist The Trumpster – and I will respect the opinions of other people.
Just in case you might be thinking that it is fine for Erin and I to band together in our own little activist group of two writers, HERE is a list of 600 others who last May risked alienation by signing a declaration of why they oppose Trump as a presidential candidate. The most telling clause being:
Because the rise of a political candidate who deliberately appeals to the basest and most violent elements in society, who encourages aggression among his followers, shouts down opponents, intimidates dissenters, and denigrates women and minorities, demands, from each of us, an immediate and forceful response;(The post about the 600 writers was written by Andrew Altschul and Mark Slouka at The Literary Hub.)
I do hope you will take a moment when you are finished here and go over to read the entire post by Erin. It is worth the read and unlike the rants that so often clutter social media. And do leave a comment here to let us know your stand on speaking out or not. Do you agree with my Facebook friend?
Posted by Maryann Miller - novelist, editor and sometimes actress. Her most recent mystery, Doubletake, was named the 2015 Best Mystery by the Texas Association of Authors. She has a number of other books published, including the critically-acclaimed Season Series that debuted with Open Season. Information about her books and her editing rates is available on her website. When not writing, Maryann likes to take her dog for a walk and work outside on her little ranch in East Texas.