Wednesday, November 7, 2012

It's Over...Or Just Beginning

by Elizabeth

Here in Texas, we weren't much inundated with political ads over the last many months. Or maybe we were; I don't really watch TV, and I listen to NPR in the car, so what do I know? Well, I know that both the Republican and Democratic parties figured Texas would go to Romney, as indeed it did, so it's my assumption that we were spared the deluge battering folks in places like Florida and Ohio and Colorado.

But now, the election is over, and whether you are happy with the outcome or not, chances are you are glad it's at least over. As for me? My lips are sealed; I don't enjoy talking politics with friends, much less strangers, and I have no desire to risk alienating potential readers.

Which brings up a point, something I've wondered about many times over the course of this writing journey. How is it that some writers, in this day and age of words are forever, thank you Internet, risk their reputations or maybe just readership by spewing opinions that are likely better left unsaid? I'm not suggesting that political conversations are inherently inappropriate or even lacking any pleasure. (Just because I don't enjoy them doesn't mean many do; I have friends and family who relish nothing more than a good slog through the muddy waters of government policy and practice.) What I am saying is that, if you write, and especially if you write fiction, why say something that cannot be erased to people you don't know but whose good will you would like to court? (Non-fiction could be another story, of course.) If last night's presidential results taught us nothing else, it should remind us of this: about half of us feel one way for the most part, and half the other way. I hope the victors remember that, and I really hope I do. I have a big mouth a lot of the time, but I try to keep it shut when it doesn't matter to anyone but me.

This isn't to say, either, that we as writers don't have valid opinions, and that those can be shared if we choose. Rather, I'm suggesting that any hopeful writer just keeps in mind that what they say can come back to haunt them. And it's not only politics; I learned my lesson early on when I posted a copy of a query letter online and found someone had admired it so much that they posted it all over several other writer sites as an example. Not what I wanted; agents look at these sites, too, and the last thing I wanted was for my query to be stale before it even reached the inbox of my potential agent. "Little girl, be careful what you say when you make talk with words..." wrote Carl Sandburg, and he was of course right.

If you have opinions, and they matter to you, and you feel confident with them out there, by all means, throw them to the wind and let them flutter bravely. But be aware as you do so; know what you are doing, and why, and take into account that there is risk involved. It may well be risk you are more than happy to take. And if your work, fiction or not, is issue-driven, it may be a good and driving force to get your opinion out there, a platform builder. But take care. Know what you say, and mean to say it.

Because after all, another thing campaign seasons teach us is the power of words that escape on accident. Nearly every politician has had that happen, and in some cases, my guess is they'd say it cost them dearly.

"So, little girl, when you speak greetings,
when you tell jokes, make wishes or prayers,
be careful, be careless, be careful,
be what you wish to be."


  1. Good advice, Elizabeth, and words I've thought many times over. I think passion is great and admire those who confidently share their opinions but have wondered at the wisdom of sharing political/religious views in open forums--unless you're running for office.

  2. I think it depends on priorities in many cases. Some writers likely feel their responsibility to vocalize about politics is more critical than their ability to sell a book or keep readers. I suppose if you make that choice, you must simply be willing to accept the consequences graciously if you do lose readers as a result. I prefer to keep my politics mostly to myself, too, but have seen a pretty broad range among writers.

    Good post, Elisabeth.

  3. Ha ... ELIZABETH. I have many E's in my life. :)

  4. Many writers I greatly respect and admire have been open about their views in social forums, though rarely in a mud-slinging or saber-rattling way. Rather, they spoke from the heart and out of genuine concern. I can't find fault with that.


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