“The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read. Not by any other person, and not even by yourself at some later date. Otherwise you begin excusing yourself. You must see the writing as emerging like a long scroll of ink from the index finger of your right hand; you must see your left hand erasing it.”
― Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin
The only reason I ever became even semi-comfortable writing in a public venue like the Sarcastic Muse is because I have always carried the above-mentioned quote with me.
Given the volatile nature of the Internet, the multitudes of trolls, and even the expectations of the writing community itself, I always want to edit my work, especially when I know that others may be reading it. Of course, editing is an important step to putting a piece before the public, as it generally makes elements better, but for those who worry about public opinion (and in some respect, this means everybody), editing can just as easily turn into over-editing, filled with self-censorship and self-doubt. Even the other Muses have taken the embodiment of our readership—the others—into consideration before formally scheduling some of their own posts, asking: Do you think readers will be offended by my talking about this subject? Do you think this is too forward to post? Am I on my high horse?
And before you know it, we start removing our original thoughts, replacing them with ideas we perceive as less radical, less forward, less open to controversy, less offensive, and so on and so forth—all because we want to avoid conflict with strangers.
I disagree with this, of course. As a principle, I believe that if I have something worth writing about, something I feel strongly enough to write about for the public (even while trying to imagine—for sanity’s sake—that no one will bother to read it), then I should believe in it enough to post it.
To write the truth, you must assume no one will ever read it. In the end, you cannot make everyone happy with your words. Undoubtedly at some point, you will get a troll comment or maybe a reader will (hopefully) politely disagree with your ideas. And that’s okay. That is the point of expressing ourselves to others: to open ourselves to the perspectives of other people, even those who may not think like we do, and in turn to be opened by others.
As long as we can express ourselves tastefully and respectfully, we are at the helm of our own creative work. We must imagine we are erasing our thoughts into cyber-space, rather than generating them—that in erasing the notion of the unseen other, we are actually emerging in our words. And we should be proud when those others, the unknown public eyes, take the time to read our thoughts and even to comment their own in return. Because in doing so, we grow: as a community and as individuals.
Good writing should be honest. Even if the truth belongs only within the realm of our own understanding. So speak boldly and emerge.
Assume the only person in the world you’re writing to is yourself.