By: Lydia Oyetunji
“Self-censorship is the most insidious form of censorship.”
― Marty Rubin
Writing true feelings about a particular subject can prove to be quite difficult or maybe an act of cowardice. I say this because we as people have our own opinion, and we are entitled to them. For writers in the form of authors, journalists, bloggers, poets we are on center stage. So we must be especially careful as to what we write and how our readers may perceive it. The way in which we compose a thought, feeling or emotion can be taken entirely out of context for the following reasons.
- We all speak differently.
- Our personality is felt through the way we use our words.
- One person may perceive the subject matter differently than another.
- Language barrier.
How often do you find yourself filtering your compositions? Quite often I feel like I must censor my work. I carefully screen my opinion in an attempt not to be offensive. People tend to wear their feelings on their sleeves. If you stir the pot too much, you may lose readers. Hey- ignorance is bliss! Somewhat oblivious to popular opinion, due to my refusal to walk the zombie march. I can think for myself, so it’s safe to say the filtered version is my way of stroking the ego of my readers.
Open minded, laid back, outspoken and creative are adjectives that describe me. That is also my writing style, but I have turned myself into a “fence rider” in hopes of accumulating a following of dedicated readers. When I read and meditated upon an article written by Scott Biddulph entitled “Finding Your Writing Voice” on “Two Drops of Ink” it was as if he was speaking to me directly. The excerpt that reads: “First, I learned to write for myself and my satisfactions–never write to the reader. Readers are fickle, and no one can write in a way that suffices the interests and pet-peeves of everyone who reads. Second, write like you talk, write like you would communicate with a close circle of friends, speak from your heart–that is where you find your voice. Anne Lamott taught me so much about this aspect of writing. If you are still looking for your voice–read her book.” It reads like an open invitation to be and write exactly as you view life. Controversial or blatantly truthful, it’s okay not to agree with the masses and if you win or lose readers so be it. Feathers are going to be ruffled…. in fact, I feel that as writers, it’s part of our job.
“Genuine bravery for a writer… It is about calmly speaking the truth when everyone else is silenced, when the truth cannot be expressed. It is about speaking out with a different voice, risking the wrath of the State and offending everyone, for the sake of the truth, and the writer’s conscience.”
Why write if your aim is to censor your views? It’s better for writers to express our true voice and allow our conscience to remain clear! Continuing to censoring myself is a slap in the face of writers and journalists that fought for freedom of expression.
- Barney Rosset, the founder of Grove Press, battled censorship by printing American classics; D.H. Lawrence’s “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” and “Tropic of Cancer” by Henry Miller. He also backed controversial writers such as William S. Burroughs, Marguerite Duras, Che Guevara and Malcolm X.
- Upton Sinclair (author), was arrested at a Union rally for reading the First Amendment. He also wrote about the limitations of “free press.”
- Margaret Sanger published her monthly newsletter “The Woman Rebel”. Margaret educated women and gave a lecture about birth control and was incarcerated.
These are just a few of the literary activists that made it possible for writers to exercise our First Amendment rights freely. Be aware that these rights are slowly in danger of being infringed upon. Thus proving self- censorship is mere idiocrasy and cowardice on the part of all involved. We lose our dignity but also support the mental oppression of our readers. The Pen is and always will be mightier than the sword, especially when it scribbles the truth!