Writing

Dear New Writers: You Do Have The Power To Speak

Several times a year I encounter moments where a writer, or a new writer, or a writer yet to be, is reluctant to write an essay or talk about a position they are passionate about. This is doubly so if it’s political. They believe that they’ll be blackballed from publishing or their career will falter.

Since it’s a political election season, I’d like to note:

The ‘industry’ of writers/critics/readers/etc are not nearly monolithic enough to blackball you. It’s easier to die quietly in a midlist spiral. Or to never get noticed at all.

This fear of blackballs existed when I was an egg as well. I was told a lot of things to do when I joined up by older writers.

Don’t talk about politics, you’ll lose readers. Don’t talk about controversy, you’ll lose readers.
Don’t lose readers!
Don’t be too ‘strident’ or no one will want to work with you.

I’m not going to lie and say you won’t get labeled. I’m not going to lie and say that you won’t lose readers.

But…

Most readers aren’t online, they’re aren’t involved in the bubble of who’s saying what unless you’re being quoted in major magazines. Most readers want to be entertained. Most editors want to sell a book to readers that will do well. (and, ps, you’ll also *gain* readers).
Speaking up doesn’t preclude a career. If so, some of my favorite writers today wouldn’t have one. And some of my least favorite as well.

Yes, you do have to pick where and when you’ll fight. Choose where to spend your energy. I try to invest most of my energy into the fiction.

Yet, the blackballing thing keeps coming up. Over 15 years observing, this is one of those things that people believe that I try to dissuade. Obscurity is far more a threat to a career than blackballing. You’d also be surprised at the number of voices that people in the field become aware of due to speaking up.

So if you really want to, tell us what you’re thinking. Really.

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