Censored by Decency

censored

Gone are the days when I wake up an hour early to write. Long gone. This morning I was up at 5:15. That early alarm setting allows forty-five minutes of quiet self-care—coffee, news, cereal—before my kids grudgingly get out of bed. They require constant and sometimes not-so-gentle nudging towards door to start their school day. If I got up an hour earlier, it would be the middle of the night.

Today I’ve got that extra hour. Susan is driving the kids to school. It’s on her way, but it’s typically not on her schedule. She works an hour away. When the kids are due at school, she’s usually deep into her commute. Today is Friday: she thought she might relax her morning with a late start. It relaxed mine. It gave me time to write.

Recently, most of my writing is done at night.

After dinner, after dishes, sometimes after Eli’s math homework, there’s a solid ninety minutes of free-time. I usually spend this time reading. I start with blogs and then finish up with immersion in a novel. Susan follows a similar pattern, but her computer use is reading news, not blogs. Eli focuses on YouTube and endures admonishments from his parents: “Ten more minutes, then switch to reading.” Sophie, eleventh grade, honors-everything, has hours of homework.

These days, I only sit to write when a topic has partially formed in my head. Kim McCrea’s recent essay, Dog Magic, reminds me that my old habit of setting aside dedicated time to write every day is a better strategy for improving my craft. But if I did that now, I’d never have time to read—and that would erode my writing skills as well.

Last Monday night, a topic nagged at me, begging for attention. An unfortunate conversation a few weeks earlier, in the heart of Christmas celebrations, left me with an ugly impression, a sour taste in my mouth. Someone offended me, and weeks later I couldn’t let it go. I skipped my evening reading and churned out a tight and fiery seven-hundred words.

I’m unable to accurately judge my writing. From my perspective I often knock out some mediocre pieces, but on occasion I’m sure I’ve completely nailed one. Those times I think I’ve hit a home run, I post my story and wait. I sit at my computer, anticipating likes and comments, but they don’t come. My best stories are ignored. Any and all praise is saved for the stories that feel like filler. That stuff I post to “keep my blog active.”

On Monday night, I killed it. I wrote one of those pieces that leaves me feeling proud. It was smart, funny, informative. It made good use of dialogue, and it made a point. I stuck up for people with disabilities and shamed a person for discrimination. As icing on the cake, I blasted a major American retailer as well. I couldn’t wait to post it.

This has happened to me before. I’ll complete a story, edit, rewrite and rearrange. And then I’ll read it over looking for those final typos that always seem to make it through to publication. And then, finally, I’ll realize, “I can’t post this, people are going to read it.”

My favorite story of all time, something I wrote years ago, has never been published… anywhere. I manage a second blog, an anonymous blog. A space that can’t be traced to me. The names and places are all made up. It’s just another random website among billions. A place to air grievances and work out problems without hurting feelings. I know I’m being overly paranoid, but I can’t bring myself to post the story on this blog. The fallout could be toxic. Relationships ruined.

My Monday night piece is a little bit like this. I’m building a collection. Stories that only exist on my hard drive, stories read only by me. Maybe they’ll be blogged posthumously. Or someone can read them at my funeral. But for now, I’m holding off. I’m keeping the peace. I’m censored by decency.

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22 thoughts on “Censored by Decency

  1. My best friend is fond of saying “you are the owner of what you don’t say, and the servant of what you do.” No truer words have been spoken. When I feel as you do , and I have very recently, I question my motives. And I question the unintended consequences and how I might manage them if the worst manifests. Could I defend my actions and would I feel authentic doing so? And if I can then I do it, and if I can’t then I don’t. Seems you’ve created your own calculus, weighed your words and decided to be their master. In my experience, you’re very likely right.

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    • My wife follows (and frequently talks about) the Buddhist tenent of “wise speech” which follows math much simpler than calculus. She asks 1) Is it true? and 2) Is it helpful. Only if she can say yes to both, does she talk about something. I’m trying hard to internalize this practice. In truth, this time, she helped me with my decision.

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  2. Oooooh, I have so many of these. I feel there are so many things I WANT to say but know – Robyn, you can’t say that. I may just write them and keep them – at least get them out – but like you, never post. I like what Susan says, too. I will think about that as well.

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  3. Did the writing, even though you didn’t post it, let the frustrated feelings subside? If so, then definitely not a wasted exercise. I like that you have a hidden page with other thoughts on it. Do you have people commenting on the posts you’ve put on there? I hear you with regards to the posts we put on. I’m always surprised that the posts that I don’t hold as much love for are the ones that other people like – the same applies when I’m posting on Instagram and Facebook. I simply can’t read people.

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    • Like most of my writing, this helped me get more personal clarity. I suppose writing it out calmed me down, but when it comes to discriminating against disabilities (I guess really any discrimination) I get really pissed off. Oh wait, you guys use that term differently. One thing I’ve noticed is that upbeat posts tend to get more love, and for me, those are rarely the ones that are most meaningful to me.

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      • Yes personal clarity. Totally get that. We say pissed off in the uk if something really annoys us. What way is it for you? Yes, agree with the upbeat posts getting more love. Do you think this is because the hard hitting posts have to make people think and it can make them feel uncomfortable? Often I’ll read posts from others and don’t feel I can articulate myself to give a worthy response.

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      • This was a. Conference my work sponsored. It was about courage. I don’t think anyone knew she was going to talk about vulnerability. My take away was to speak up even if it isn’t comfortable. That’s where I need courage.

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      • One last thing. Last weekend my daughter was singing in a choir concert with a group of adults. One of the women looked identical to you. So much so that when she came to the mic to say something, I was actually surprised that she sounded like an American. And when I told my wife about the resemblance, she said “Wow, she must be beautiful.”

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      • Haha! So pleased I read this when I was at home. I burst out laughing so much when you was surprised she was American, I’m sure I would have made someone jump if I was out or in the office 😂. I love having doppelgängers – it is really a strange phenomenon. Aww your wife just made me blush. Thanks for sharing the story.

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  4. I like your idea of having a second, completely anonymous blog. There are some topics I would like to write about, but I fear the backlash on my blog. I think readers get used to reading a certain style and content of writing from a blog. It’s comfortable, sort of like McDonald’s. You can go into a McDonald’s anywhere in the world and expect the same food, same flavor, same appearance. I sometimes feel like stepping out of my comfort zone too.

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  5. I think I can relate – by telling my story, I also inevitable tell other people’s stories, i.e. when I talk about various situations that have involved other people. And people are related or otherwise associated with me and that’s another thing to be mindful of. An old boss used to have a secret Twitter account he used to say things he felt he couldn’t with his real name attached to it, and I can absolutely see the appeal as well as necessity!

    Funny you mention the words your wife goes by, I have a similar mantra framed on the wall at home and I think of it as a filter and ideally there should be a ‘yes’ to two of them: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?

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  6. I have a post sitting idle in a Google doc right now, something I penned in early November, that will likely not see the light of day. Every word of it is true to how I feel, but I absolutely know it would ruffle a number of feathers (although many people would also likely applaud it). While I know it’s probably best for that post to stay a draft forever, there is a part of me that would love to read a collection of such posts from all my favorite bloggers.

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