December’s IWSG question:
It’s holiday time! Are the holidays a time to catch up or fall behind on writer goals?
Fortunately for me, the question is always optional.
It’s the first Wednesday of the month, which means it is the posting day for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group!
Visit to learn more about IWSG and sign up!
Please make a point of visiting them.
As strange and unusual as it may seem, I don’t have much to expound on regarding the suggested topic for this month. December is just another month with too much to do and not enough time. The universe hates a void.
That said, I’ve decided that this month I’m going off the rails and talking about something that has me very concerned with regard to writing commercially.
That is the trend indicating writers need to have a sensitivity reader review their work. Hopefully, I’m not being too sensitive about sensitivity.
There is a common sentiment that there are two inescapable truths of life; death and taxes. I’ll propose that there is a least one more very real truth. It is impossible to make everyone happy. Someone somewhere is going to take encumbrance with something you say or write.
I cannot imagine writing from a first-person viewpoint about something that I don’t feel I know about. For the record, I’ve never personally had a substance abuse challenge, but I have been subjected to people that have. Does that mean I should not write about it? That I should not share my own personal observations? Would my perspectives be that far off?
As writers, we witness life around us, and some things we witness leave impressions, some stronger than others. As we write our stories, we draw upon these life experiences and project them, maybe transform them, or twist them a little, but all with the intent of evoking emotion, a thought, or even, a perspective.
Is the world in such a state that we need to dampen viewpoints and eliminate all bias to not hurt anyone’s feelings?
Sensitivity rules should be the same for all
Huckleberry Finn has been banned from many schools, in many cases due to the use of the word nigger. Mark Twain was white. However, Chris Rock, Chris Tucker, and other black comedians use the N-word regularly in their routines. Yet, a very white Paula Dean uses the word and all hell breaks loose. I want to be very clear here that I’m not making a judgment call on the use of the word, but rather that there appears to be a variable scale based on who uses a term as to whether it is acceptable or not. If a term is deemed to be unacceptable, it should be unacceptable in ALL cases.
One does not have to identify as something in order to identify with something
In my book, I have a gay coroner, who camps up with my protagonist with the specific intent of making him uncomfortable. As an individual, I do not identify as gay, and my familiarity with the community goes well beyond the “I have a friend that is gay” trope. But, since I don’t identify as gay, does that mean that I am bound to fail a sensitivity review?
Censoring is a missed opportunity for healthy dialogue
My current thinking is such that I have been around the block a few times, but I have not been around every block, which doesn’t prevent me from giving directions for where I have been. My goal in writing is to entertain, tell a good story, and have fun while doing so. I might even want to project a theme on something I feel is important. I don’t want to worry about annoying people that are labeling themselves as underrepresented. The jury is still out for me as to whether or not I’ll engage a sensitivity reviewer. Nonetheless, the perceived need AND push for one disturbs me.
I sincerely hope that this world doesn’t get to a place where how a story is told is more important than the story being told. Maybe, if people can get past the current trigger words that are used in a story, they could get the writer’s real message.
I leave you with my perspective of Mark Twain’s story with a quote from Tom.
They hain’t no RIGHT to shut him up! SHOVE!—and don’t you lose a minute. Turn him loose! He ain’t no slave; he’s as free as any cretur that walks this earth!
Those schools that banned the book have censored a valuable message.