Okay, so yesterday there was an article circulating around writer internet (that has since been removed from the site it was on at the request of the author) that advocated political silence on social media from fiction writers.
Now is not the time to advocate political silence, particularly from those whose work has hopefully lent itself to the development of an articulate voice.
Before I continue my rant I do want to say that the person who wrote it was probably well-meaning. The main concern of the article was about potential loss of readership, marketing, your “author brand” and while it is valid for a fiction writer to consider all of these things when expressing things in public spaces, it is not appropriate to URGE silence. I mean, we are writers. If we cannot express ourselves particularly in times like these then what the hell are we doing? Who would advocate suppressing the practice of the very art that we provide? Come on now. Art is political whether that is our intention or not. And you want us to not talk politics? GTFO. I mean that literally. If it bugs you there are tools you have. Block, mute, unfriend, unfollow, etc…
Here’s the thing, we are going to talk about the things we care about whether political or not. Because we are thinking human beings. And no, I am not always thinking about my “brand” or whatever. I tend not think of myself as a brand. If I thought that way, I’d work in advertising.
One thing I’d also like to point out is that I have read plenty of authors whose politics I either had no clue about or didn’t care for. The reasons we read or don’t read a thing (as readers) are as varied as the shape of leaves turning in the wind. If we assume that we can’t speak about things that matter to us because we might lose audience for the stories we tell, doesn’t that leave the work dead in the water?
On the personal side of this I think of all the things that work against artists from the start. No one wants us to do this work when we begin, you know. Our families worry for our finances. Sometimes our ideas or the places we have to go in order to tell a story well make people uncomfortable. I resent receiving a message, yet again, that I should reconsider speaking about something that matters to me. I have been silenced throughout my whole life in ways that have had severe consequences for me. Don’t tell me to shut up when speaking out is already difficult. I had to fight hard to get to a place where I can, where I want to.
I was not a person who discussed politics a lot on social media before this past year. But I will hang on to my freedom to do so. I certainly won’t let the opinion of someone else who is worried for book sales in the abstract keep me from saying stuff. Neither should you.
Talk about what you want to talk about, whether that’s cats, cartoons, or politics. Just remember it isn’t up to anyone else.