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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

I will not cease from mental fight

A theme has appeared in my recent conversations with my friends: censorship, especially self-censorship.

I think most writers are concerned about censorship, although not for the reason you might expect. We are all secretly worried that we are contributing to it.

I do not write about everything that happens in my life: some things are far too boring even for me. (Hands up: Who wants to hear about my yellow eyeshadow? I didn’t think so.) Other things are edited out of my posts because they do not fit – I usually plan a topic in my head, write it down and then viciously take out the words that don’t belong. (That used to read “…viciously take out the sentences, clauses and words that don’t belong” but I decided there was no need for the extra words.)

None of this is self-censorship. It is editing. People who do not edit what they write are usually not very good writers.

You cross the line between editing and self-censorship when you stop thinking about what a sentence contributes to the main point you are making and start thinking about what people will think of the sentence.

It is remarkably easy to self-censor here in this series of tubes they call the Internets. With a click of my mouse, I can delete a post or comment, remove a reference or even take the entire blog down.

I am doing my best to avoid this temptation, because I hate this behaviour in others. This was never possible in the old media and, as much as I dish out the criticism to the old-media types, I can’t help but think that the fundamental rules should still apply.

I won’t be taking posts down. They represent my opinions at a certain point in time. If I change my mind, I’ll say so, but I won’t pretend that the earlier opinion didn’t exist.

This is as good a place as any to say that there are no secret messages in the titles of my posts. They are usually pop-culture or literary references, and usually have something to do with the topic in the post without being essential to understanding the main message. For example, if you know why it’s not a good idea to put new wine in old wineskins, you’ll understand why this would go with the video of Michael and the snakeskin. If not, no harm (at least in this lifetime).