Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Censoring Yourself

Have you ever been in the middle of writing and thought No, I shouldn't write that. Your fingers hovered above the keyboard. It's risky, and so and so might not like it.

We're annoyed at the idea of published books being pulled off the shelves. Would Speak exist without rape? Would The Hunger Games be as powerful without violence? Or would 13 Reasons Why be so gut-wrenching without teen suicide? I'm glad these authors wrote from their heart and nudged the censor out the door.

When I'm writing, sometimes my inner censor watches over my shoulder. She warns me that my idea is stupid, and she whispers in my ear, "Who do you think you're kidding?" At times, she might even say, "This subject shouldn't be brought up."

I try not to listen to the voices. I squelch my inner censor and write my first draft the way I want, knowing revisions will smooth things out. Plus, I remind myself that not everyone will like what I write. Just like I don't read vampire or Harry Potter books (*Gasp!* Please don't throw virtual tomatoes).

Do you struggle with silencing your inner censor? Or do you listen to the censor, hoping it'll steer you down the best path?

photo credit: flickr

44 comments:

  1. A difficult question, most of the time, writing books for younger children I rely on my inner censor I'm afraid. However, one of the most read authors over here, who throws caution to the winds, is Jacqueline Wilson, children queue round the block to see her!

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  2. I don't read vampire or Harry Potter books either! :o) I never censor myself. I love writing anything that might stir up the pot. We're human after all.

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  3. I do censor myself at first, then I think better of it and put things out there-- I make the slutty character more of a slut, the anxiety-ridden character more of a mess, the fight between husband and wife more intense and over the top, the children funnier and crazier-- yes I'm talking about my novel. I don't write graphic stuff, but I do write things stretched farther than I normally would. This doesn't happen at first, but in later drafts when I realize I need to step it up. It takes awhile to overcome my mom's voice in my head: If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.

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  4. Good for you on squelching that inner censor on your first drafts. Let it flow and fix it later - if it needs fixing at all. There isn't much I've written that my inner censor complained about, but then again, I don't write about things that would make me cringe to read (graphic sex, rape, etc.).

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  5. I'm just writing my draft the way I see it in my head... I figure there are people who'll like it and people who won't. Just like I like some books others don't and vice versa. I think there's a place for all our voices. :)

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  6. You know my feelings on this! Write what scares you!! It's the best advice I ever got.

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  7. Such a great subject! I have the censor voice too, part of the Christian conservative upbringing. But i go with it. Way i see it, the more shocking the more interesting. I don't mean graphic sex and violence or anything like that, but saying what you mean, and having characters speak their mind even if it may be considered questionable by my inner conservative that I try to suppress. lol. :)

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  8. We talked about this during my last local SCBWI schmooze. In fact, my posts on Wednesday and Friday grew from this discussion.

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  9. Now I know I'm boring, because there wasn't anything I was tempted to put in my book that didn't make it!

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  10. I do struggle with this. My instinct is to be raw and honest but sometimes that's too much for other people to handle.

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  11. I have struggled with this and now in the midst of the eighth rewrite am firmly squashing it into the ground ;p and the story now officially ROCKS

    www.damselinadirtydress.com

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  12. My biggest censor comes in dialogue. I can hear my characters' voices saying words I wouldn't personally use, and I struggle with whether to be true to what they're saying or to be true to my values. It's a tough one, and I haven't quite figured it out yet. Blaggh!

    Amy

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  13. I try not to censor my opinions, just my attitude. See, I'm what's known as a smartass, which conflicts with my desire for a more polite society. A lot.

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  14. My inner censor won't shut up. I'm hoping enough coffee and chocolate will do the trick and allow me to work. I digress...

    My biggest issue is language. I write adult romance, so when I get into the male POV, I know there are times I could be more crude and I'm not. I'm working on it.

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  15. I don't censor anything, but I do have an alter ego that occasionally makes an appearance at the downtown condo, or I find other creative ways to express the frustration I feel at times,

    Jane

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  16. It takes a lot of courage to write honestly without censoring yourself - no matter the subject. I applaud you for being able to do it sooner rather than later.

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  17. Great post as usual, Julie. I think we all have that inner voice that always tries to make us censor something from our book, but I think it is those times when we are really put to the test. Like you said, sometimes it's what we may have thought needed to be censored that makes the story all it is.
    Best of luck to you, Julie.
    --Lindsey

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  18. Julie, my inner censor must be related to your inner censor: more likely they are sisters. It constantly irritates me by screaming in my ears. I have learnt to ignore it and continue writing.

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  19. In my case, it was the opposite. I feel quite strongly about one issue that has strong political overtones, and wrote that into my WiP. But a month after I finished the book, someone else who had tackled the topic was threatened by a mob. Though I am sure my book (if at all published) will never achieve that kind of notority, I removed all references in my first round of edits.

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  20. Yes! I do... but I'm like you. I write it anyway and then see if there's a way to go back and soften that still retains the emotional impact I'm trying to achieve... yes? :o) good stuff, Julie~

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  21. YES! I do! I struggle with morals and God and my own parents all vying for space in my head and warning me not to encourage this or that... I'm getting better about it, but it is DEF a challenge!

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  22. Censoring myself is a battle. I think I got nervous when writing about difficult subject matter because other may think it's "autobiographical." But I'm learning to just push through the worry.

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  23. Sometimes writing edgier subject matters make the story more real, the message deeper. It's best to just tell the story the best way possible, without censoring.

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  24. I hate vampire books too:))
    I think we keep writing and if we keep getting that feeling to cut it out, then I usually obey it:)

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  25. I do both. But that tiny voice is there a lot. I'm learning not to listen to it!

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  26. It's so nice to know I'm not the only one who struggles with this. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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  27. I'm sensitive to that stuff because I always wonder, "if I write this, what will they think of me????"
    But I've been better lately. It's so hard to write and worry about not offending anyone!

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  28. I was even reticent to use certain cuss words at first. I fired the censor, and now the bombs are flying, especially after sitting next to a group of teens at Chronic Taco. I like to do all my teen dialogue research at fast food restaurants. I get material and I don't have to cook.

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  29. I have faith to silence the inner censor. Rewrites, writing groups, editors, my revision process... they'll take care of it.

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  30. I agree with you that my first draft is quite spontaneous and free flowing. It's the revision work where the censorship is tyrannical!

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  31. I try not to censor myself but it happens sometimes. When I'm reading my second draft I might to a part and think, "wow, that was brave of me to write that". Sometimes I end up deleting it, but then sometimes I keep it.

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  32. ah, Juls, this is a tough question. We live in times when overly violent movies, books and TV programmes have made people become numb and careless towards real violence, wars and suffering. When they see it too much on TV or in cinemas or in books, people just grow overly used to it and then they are not so shocked, as they must and should be, when they see real people dying somewhere in some foreign land. To them it's just the movie or a fictional story not reality anymore.

    This is exactly why I strongly support a certain amount of censorship. It has to be done wisely and responsibly following the rules of ethics, but is really HAS TO BE DONE. I'm afraid too many writers write irresponsible things and too many filmmakers shoot irresponsible films and by the time we realize what kind of negative influence their deeds have left on society it would be too late.

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  33. Sigh. All the time! For me, it's more: what if my parents read that? I feel sometimes like my parents are right over my shoulder, watching me write!

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  34. I'm learning to trust my insticts. I hope to follow through to the end of my first draft. Thanks for this post...:)

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  35. Hi Julie, thanks so much for talking about the blog for the series on your twitter. I just viewed the tweet you made about it.
    Tank you so much for the support hon. I appreciate you remembering me.
    Since the weekend is coming soon I hope you have a wonderful week.
    --Lindsey

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  36. I rarely censor myself, but that's mostly because I know what I want to write. I'm not writing out of the box, so it's less of an issue with me!

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  37. Hi Julie, there is an award for you on my blog.

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  39. I think that often the best books are the ones where the author risks everything. To me, that's when the character and plot feels the most authentic.

    As long as we 100% own what we write (believe in it, stand by it), I don't think it's a bad thing at all. That honesty and self confidence in what we've written will come through in the writing. If it is too real for the market, that's when an agent or editor will suggest we tone something down, but if it feels right, we need to put it on the page.

    Just my three-fiddy. :)

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

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  40. I try to turn that inner censor off and explore all possibilities but I think sometimes it's hard to tell when it is on.

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  41. I do and sometimes I go back and sometimes I won't. It's a hard thing to wrestly with, but I am not a the point where I don't care at all

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  42. Interesting post. Thought provoking. Thank you for sharing.

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  43. this is something i work with a lot -- i like the advice offered by julia cameron - she recommends writing morning pages to get that censor out of the way and let your writing flow.

    great post~

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