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Culture of Silence

I just came across this post by Jennifer Fallon about the ten things author's should never blog about. It seems that, at one time or another over the last eight years of blogging, I've done at least half of them--and for a moment, I was going to write a counter ten list. It was going to be funny, and insightful.

But then I took off to the couch for a while and gave it some thought. What bothers me about Fallon's post, to be honest, is the implication that silence is better than speaking out, and it's something that I've found to be true in the writing circles since I first got involved. There is a sense, when you begin, that being published is a privilege, no doubt aided by the struggle that the majority of writers go through at the start of their career (rejection, rejection, rejection). No one takes you aside and says that the people publishing you need you, possibly because they don't. For every small bit of success you can scrounge out of writing, there's dozens of men and women who are willing to walk over your corpse and take terrible working conditions to have what you have. They'll kick you when you're down. They'll nick off your corpse. They'll eat off the broken plates and drink from cracked glasses because being a writer is important and glamorous. So you will actually find that when you start writing, you'll be told simple 'truths': never argue with an editor, never tell a publisher they suck, never argue with a reviewer, never take your issues public. Never ever ever.

Perhaps it is just today, but I can't even really tell you that such an opinion is wrong. Originally, I thought, the response to Fallon's post was to say that you should talk about editors and agents and publishers and writers and work. After all, you'll talk about movies and movie stars and people who you buy bread and tea off, so why split hairs? Talk about the people in your world when they're good and bad--for every person doing you a disservice that you discuss, talk about the person doing you good, too. That is, honestly, how I try to roll. But, the more I thought about it, the more I realised that hey, maybe it is easier just to stay polite, quiet, and never give any shit. I've seen it done, often by people I like, and I've seen myself not do it, because I've always believed that you should say what you think, you should be passionate, you should let whatever you have out, rather than to pen it up and let it die, or fester in you. Which of course is why I've been called a cancer, met people who have never spoken to me and gotten nothing but attitude, and been conveniently--or honestly--left out of things. Fuck, not so long ago I saw someone discussing how I'm already washed up, and there was pleasure in that statement for them.

It's just thoughts, of course, and could amount to nothing, but the more I look at Fallon's list, which I'm sure was throwaway (it does mention bowel movements and litter boxes as something not to discuss, and I won't disagree there), the more I look at it, the more I find it sad, and limiting, and really, just a little, frightened--like someone could take away the toys she has suddenly discovered.

Perhaps it's just the drugs talking, though.

(crossposted)

Comments

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shadowsandice
Jun. 3rd, 2009 08:34 am (UTC)
Reading both her and your post here triggered some sadness. Smells like defeat, and I haven't started a fight yet.

Think I'll go eat a lemon.
benpeek
Jun. 3rd, 2009 09:20 am (UTC)
it's probably just the cold...
ashamel
Jun. 3rd, 2009 09:21 am (UTC)
I must admit that it seems a relatively sensible list to me.

But when was the last time I wrote anything? (Uh oh, better not mention that either.)
jody_macgregor
Jun. 3rd, 2009 09:39 am (UTC)
This has a scent of that "don't talk about politics or religion" advice that boring people believe.
benpeek
Jun. 4th, 2009 12:47 am (UTC)
yeah, too true. but aren't the most boring people the most successful?

i need more drugs, clearly.
nihilistic_kid
Jun. 3rd, 2009 03:05 pm (UTC)
It's the usual, "Writers don't have bosses and that upsets me so they'd better start pretending to have ten thousand bosses in their readers," bullshit.
angriest
Jun. 3rd, 2009 03:50 pm (UTC)
Well I was with Jennifer Fallon on the "don't post arguing about bad reviews" bit, but that "don't post about your bowel movements" bit is right out!!
(Deleted comment)
benpeek
Jun. 4th, 2009 12:47 am (UTC)
the thing about dodgy people in writing is that, for the most part, word doesn't get out to new writers. part of this is because a lot of the information floats round in back circles and you have to be in it, or know someone in it, to know about it...
jack_ryder
Jun. 3rd, 2009 10:57 pm (UTC)
Writers as brands
Much of this is about protecting the brand. However, if your brand is predicated on being a stirrer...
benpeek
Jun. 4th, 2009 12:44 am (UTC)
Re: Writers as brands
yeah, there is that, too.
lyndarama
Jun. 3rd, 2009 11:37 pm (UTC)
Silence = Death. Or so I'm led to believe.
benpeek
Jun. 4th, 2009 12:42 am (UTC)
i've seen it go both ways, to be honest.
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