Don’t Let Anybody Squash You


Because first off, you’re not a bug.

We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little.
- Anne Lamott

I was dismayed this morning when another blogger mentioned that someone had tried to tell her she shouldn’t have written about a certain topic because it was too sad. The topic in question was an incident that had troubled and upset the writer, and as most of you who read this blog are also writers, you will understand what it feels like to need to say something because it is pressing on your heart.

What we write about is what comes from our core, things that move us. Sometimes those things are very sad, and they make us want to cry and wring our hands or shake our fists at the sky and scream “Why?!”

Our writing is us. And sometimes we are upset, and we sort things out by writing. It’s the equivalent of opening all the windows in our heads and airing out our brains, neatly stacking thoughts where they should go on the various synaptic pathways. Otherwise it’s just all going to lay around all over the place and eventually we’re going to trip over something and do a face-plant. Nothing good can come of that. We are not the kind of people who can simply bury our heads in the sand and pretend something’s not happening.

A writer without interest or sympathy for the foibles of his fellow man is not conceivable as a writer.
- Joseph Conrad

If we had no interest in the world and were content to live in a tiny bubble of our own making, untouched by other passengers on this voyage we wouldn’t be writing at all, because there would be nothing to say. There would be nothing to understand. Nothing would be happening.

But things do happen: to us, because of us, around us. And we are AWARE of those things, and they have an effect on us, whether good or bad. And no one has the right to tell you what you should or should not write.

Because after all, you are not a bug.

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27 Comments

  1. Not to mention that we have the choice: when we visit a blog, or pick up a book, we can choose to put it down after the first paragraph. Someone else will read that same first para and think it’s just exactly what he or she wanted to read. There are all kinds of books and blogs etc. that I choose not to read. It just isn’t for me. How selfish it would be to tell the writer: “Don’t write that! It’s not what I was looking for and the content makes me sad / angry / whatever.”

    I bet that sad blog post was appreciated and understood by a number of other bloggers. Sometimes we need to read something like that, to know that we aren’t alone; we aren’t the only ones who feel that way.

    You picked great quotes to illustrate your point here.

    Reply

  2. Hi Chris,
    Exactly! Just like changing the tv channel if something comes on that you don’t want to watch. Unless you’re contracted to write a particular thing, no one gets to tell you what to write about. Glad you liked the quotes, I take such comfort from other writers.

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  3. Well that’s rude. You can’t tell a writer what they can or can’t write; that just limits their creativity. I bet the person who made that comment wouldn’t like it if the same happened to them.

    Reply

  4. I don’t trust anybody who’d tell a writer not to write something sad. For one thing, as you said, writing about our sorrows is a healthy way to work through them – there is no one I admire more than a person who can turn his or her sadness into art. Discourage that, and there’d be no King Lear, no Madame Butterfly, no Long Day’s Journey into Night, no Porgy & Bess, no Animal Farm. I mean geez, what would be left: Archie Comics and Dancing With the Stars?

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  5. My guess is that’s exactly the sort of thing that person wants to read or see. Some people who don’t want to even acknowledge the existence of darkness in themselves or anyone else.That kind of mindset won’t serve well forever, because sooner or later everyone has something tough to deal with.

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  6. A very profound post, DD. I can’t imagine living a world where you’re told what to write or censored with what feeling you’re allowed to feel…to share. Love the quotes too. :)

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  7. Well put D.D!! I have so much I’d like to say about this! Especially the part that you wrote about writing being therapeutic. But it’s far too late for me tonight to organize an appropriate response.

    And I can confirm that since I had to look up both, Therapeutic and appropriate, in order to spell them correctly.

    Good words though, and very true indeed.

    PS. Ever since I read “Heart of Darkness” by Conrad in High School he has always been one of my very favorite writers.

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  8. So now that I’ve had a minute or two of rest:
    To attempt to censor someone from writing about their inner most feelings, whether that be sadness or joy, is probably the closest thing to heresy among Wordsmiths.

    I think primarily because if you are one of those people who not only writes because you love to, but because you must, it would be tantamount to asking another human being to “muffle their heartbeat please, you are disturbing the other human beings on the planet.”

    In my opinion, most writers write because they must. Simple fact.

    For some, including myself, the act of writing is exactly as you describe it. It is a way to straighten the cluttered mess of ideas we have littering our psyche and to attempt to gain some perspective on the world.

    I find that “sad” emotions are more powerful than “happy” ones when it comes to writing because it is a way of relieving pressure on the soul. Even if no one reads it, while you were writing, you get the lump in the throat, shed a few tears, catch your breath and then your feet touch solid ground and you can think clearly for a moment or two about what is bothering you.

    I also believe it is important because writers carry on a tradition of cataloging the experiences of mankind. We did not learn the things about events in human history before the advent of video media by watching you tube videos posted by the Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, etc.

    Writing about what happens to you is a way of cataloging that event for the rest of humanity. So that someone will eventually read it and say, “yes! That’s exactly it! That’s what I’m going through right now. I thought I was the only one feeling that way. I guess not. And that gives me strength in understanding what is happening to me. Let me keep reading and see how the writer dealt with it and maybe it will give me the answer I am looking for.”

    So in conclusion, I agree D.D.
    Well said.

    Reply

    1. My goodness, Eric, I think you said it all better than I did! :) I loved this: “muffle their heartbeat please, you are disturbing the other human beings on the planet.” Sounds like you woke up with freshly polished armor to face the world today. Go get ‘em! :D

      Reply

      1. LOL, I never polish my armor, it only gets dirty again!

        Seriously though, could you see if Poe or Lovecraft had a blog today and a SUBSCRIBER posted saying, “Your stuff is a little dark and creepy. Would you mind not writing these kinds of things?”

      2. LOL right? I wonder though if they did get that kind of remark from friends or family? Even Kurt Vonnegut said, “My relatives say that they are glad I’m rich, but that they simply cannot read me.”

  9. What a great post. You’re always so eloquant.

    I just can not imagine telling someone what they should write about. How immature and utterly rude of that person. If you visit someone’s blog and they are writing on topics you don’t want to read about there is a simple solution; stop reading their blog.

    I did get a similar remark once. Someone was upset about something in one of my manus (a horror). “That’s too sad. You should take that out.” Err no. You don’t have have to like it. You never have to read anything else I ever write again. That’s your right. But don’t tell me or any other writer what they can or cannot write about or include in their work. Write your own stuff.

    The person did later apologise to me for being out of line. My dad, the softie. ;)

    Reply

  10. Thanks, Tasha. It seems to happen to a lot of people. Even innocuous suggestions like, ‘Oh, you should have this happen, or that happen…” annoy me. Maybe they need to write their own book or blog. Telling any writer what to write, good or bad, is (IMHO) out of line. (although I’m sure you can temper that for your dear old dad, eh? ;) )

    Reply

  11. I am here amazed that you quoted Anne Lamott. I’ve been at home most of the day working on a review for her latest book I just finished. Wow, got a chill. Love what you wrote, made me feel like a million bucks there Dame. Thanks.

    Reply

  12. Some people are just too strongly opinionated and think the world revolve around them! If it does not float their boat something is off and must be corrected even when it does not pertain to them at all.

    What ever happen to the saying if you don’t like something don’t say anything just move on or keep one’s mouth close. Blogs are created for so many purposes and one of them is to express how one feel. How dare someone tell another what they should write or not!

    Reply

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