Monday, July 5, 2010

Freedom to Write

Post by Jenny

I love the Fourth of July because it’s a celebration of freedom, food, fun, fireworks (where permitted), and family. There are no gifts involved, no shopping for the right size or color or musical preference. (That’s a freedom in and of itself right there.) If you live in the U.S., I hope you enjoyed your holiday, and I also hope you took a moment to appreciate our country.

Yes, I know, it feels as though we are long on problems and short on solutions these days. But in an effort to focus on the positive, I thought yesterday about how much we still value the right of personal expression. And never before have we had so many opportunities to say what’s on our minds, via the ubiquitous Twitter, my mother’s preferred method of writing in longhand, and everything in between.

As my 9-year-old is fond of telling me when I ask him to do something he’d rather not do, we live in a free country. My standard rebuttal is to agree but point out that we all have rules to follow, even grownups and writers. But as long as I stay within the fairly wide parameters of the law—not difficult, as I can easily do without the obscene and libelous—I have the freedom write whatever I choose. I can try to be funny or profound, I can (unintentionally, I promise) bore or confuse. I can also offer my opinions about what others have written.

I’m familiar with famously persecuted writers such as Solzhenitsyn and Rushdie, but I recently learned of a situation that hits closer to home—the story a woman, a former resident of my town, who came to the U.S. from a country that does not value creative expression, especially from women. She self-published an unflinching novel set in that country, and she is now unable to return there, to the land of her birth, for fear of reprisal. This woman is not a gun-toting revolutionary. She is a writer, a wife, a mother, a daughter, as am I. But I highly doubt I’d have the courage to write the kind of book she has written.

So, on the days when this writing business seems too hard—when I’m sick of revising my query letter for the thousandth time, when I’m frustrated over a character or a plotline and want to bang my head on the desk, when I feel as if I have a better chance of playing for the WNBA than getting a novel published—I’ll think about how hard it could be, if the tables were turned.

I hope that wherever you are today, you have the freedom to write to your heart’s desire.


Kerrie said...

Amazing Post Jenny. Thanks for the reminder of just how lucky we are to have the freedom to write whatever we choose.

Rosslyn Elliott said...

Oh yes - a very important reminder. I hope we never lose our freedom and have to appreciate what it meant in hindsight.

Patricia Stoltey said...

So true. We need to count our blessings.

Julie Musil said...

How true. Your post is an excellent reminder of things we sometimes take for granted.

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