This post isn’t so much about writing as it is about being a writer. Or, to be more precise, it’s about simultaneously being a writer and a citizen of the troubled world in which we live.
Here’s the question: should the writer of fiction also publicly discuss politics and related controversial topics?
The prevailing wisdom says no. As writers in the twenty-first century, most of us necessarily spend nearly as much time growing and nurturing our platforms as we do writing the books and shorter works those platforms exist to promote. It doesn’t make sense to work as hard as we do to build our platforms only to weaken them by broadcasting our political views. When it comes to political matters, everyone’s got an opinion, and everyone is convinced he’s right. So unless you make your living as a political writer, it’s simply not worth the risk of offending half of the potential readers out there by expressing political opinions we might just as easily keep to ourselves.
But maybe the prevailing wisdom isn’t always right.
I can think of two reasons for a writer to discuss politics with care, and they go hand-in-hand. First, she believes the person she is presenting via her platform is not genuine because the political side of her is a key part of who she is. Second, she believes she has an obligation as a human being to speak up where she sees injustice. In these cases, perhaps it’s better not to remain silent.
Are you the kind of person you want to be? Given your unique skills–which include communicating nuanced ideas to others in ways that resonate–are you fulfilling your obligations not just to promote your work, but to improve whatever it is you value in the world? People look around our troubled planet all the time and wonder how to change it. As writers, we possess a power not shared by everyone: the power of the pen (or laptop). If we write fiction, must we surrender that power completely in order to market successfully our stories and our books? [Read more…]