I look up and notice that over a week has gone by since I last posted anything here. This is a shocking state of affairs, but I am not sure how to rectify it.
The weather has been quite unreasonable in its high temperatures, clear skies and sunshininess. This has led to some disturbed nights (not so much the sunshininess, but the heat and clear skies have made sleeping uncomfortable) and various other distractions that have left my brain functioning at less than full capacity. Most of its resources have gone into writing the novel.
During that time, several things have flowed by in the river of time and internet, which have prompted initial thoughts of “ooh, I should write about that” and then either forgotten what I wanted to say before I got to the keyboard, or else have written 500 words and then thought, “actually, nothing much is served by spewing my opinions all over everyone.”
I never thought, when I first encountered bloggers and blogging, that I would censor myself the way I saw other people writing that they had come to do. A common theme was that after a while, they would find vicious messages or vehement disagreements in their inboxes and gradually, these would wear away at the soul until it was easier not to post their most contentious ideas. You know, most often the ones that were most hardline in saying that we should treat each other with respect and dignity, and that we should perhaps fight for a world in which that was the norm rather than the exception (given that White cis het males are still a minority in the world, we can pretty much declare that for most people, they can point to a way in which they are habitually not afforded respect or dignity). Being vehemently in favour of taking action to bring about that change (as opposed to just waiting and hoping it would happen by accident some day) drew attacks that were most unpleasant.
Have I fallen into that self-censorship trap? Well, yes and no. I am certainly far more aware now than I was when I first started commenting on blogs and the events of the day of the ways in which flame wars start, or the ways in which people habitually interpret certain types of statements, often to the detriment and contradiction of the intended sentiment of the person making those statements. I saw it happen to others often enough and, as a writer, found it frustrating in the extreme when my carefully-worded opinion would be mangled and twisted to make it easier for someone to either oppose it, or claim that I supported them. So I write a carefully reasoned and argued piece, and I look through it and I see where the attacks will come and I think, “Is it worth it?” However, sometimes what I think is, “I haven’t expressed myself clearly enough – this will cause more misunderstanding than clarity. I shouldn’t share it.” And sometimes I think, “Actually, I haven’t added anything new to the debate with this, it isn’t worth my while engaging just to echo what someone else already wrote.” All of that covers the “yes”.
The “no” part of that is that I still believe what I believe, and express it in what I believe to be the best forums to do so, especially where trust is established. All that has changed is that I am better able to tell what is or is not appropriate, and I am better at managing my spoons supply than I used to be. I think I did a lot of harm to myself by over-expending myself in the early days. I often save the writing that I do, because it may be that I will find the spoons to take on that battle in future, if it becomes more important. And things like “does this really add anything to the debate?” don’t really feel like self-censorship.
I’ve grown older, and perhaps marginally wiser, since my earliest forays into political or social debates. I have certainly learned a lot and look back on some of my early mistakes with something approaching deep shame. Some of the “fauxgressive” (i.e. falsely professing to be progressive/feminist) opinions on gender and sexuality that are rightly derided in feminist blogs used to spring readily to my mouth when I was a callow 18 year old in my first year at university – it took me an embarrassingly long time to unlearn those ideas, but thank God I’m not that guy any more! The world, too, has changed in various ways – some of which have impacted on my novel’s plot, as I originally envisaged it 7 years ago. I heard once that Wagner wrote the libretto for the Ring Cycle first, but then somewhere along the line his philosophical view of the world changed, so he composed the music to make the words reflect this new understanding. I feel as though something like that has happened with my novel, too – although of course I am still on the first draft and have had plenty of opportunity to revise and renew the plot to allow for my different perspective before I had committed too many words to the page (word processing file – whatever).
Which leads to an interesting dilemma on this post. All these considerations that have led to a tendency to self-censor or otherwise choose not to post, also come into play if I start thinking about whether or not to tell you some of the topics that I chose not to publish. And yet, it feels as though that would be the natural way to finish. I’ve decided not to do so. My feeling is that the topics will come up again. It may be that I will feel happier about writing about my opinions when I do so out of the context of someone else’s debate but as a simple “manifesto” declaration. If it happens to be something that is related to my novel’s topics then all the better. It’s also possible to ask me for my opinion on stuff if you feel like it. So if the topic matters to me, you’ll end up hearing about it anyway and if not, then teasing you wouldn’t be fair.