Welcome to the monthly Insecure Writer’s Support Group post. This month’s question is the following:
The question: In your writing, where do you draw the line, with either topics or language?
Back when Caffeinated Press and The 3288 Review were first starting up, the bunch of us met to discuss editorial policy. As I was heading up the journal, and intended it to include reviews of West Michigan arts and letters, the first points I introduced were “No poison pens. No punching down.” In other words, the performative sadism of the Hot Take and the Gleefully Nasty Review had no place in any publication to which I would contribute my time and effort.
That being said, I found this to be a surprisingly difficult question to answer with specifics. After much consideration, I think the line I draw is here:
No exploitation of, or punching down at, minority or marginalized or vulnerable persons or groups.
I say this as a middle-aged, straight, white, middle-class, cisgender, progressive, sort-of-Buddhist man whose political sensibilities have moved steadily leftward for the past thirty years. Any art which depends on stepping on necks in order to elevate itself is art which is on the wrong side of history.
While the stories I write may include instances of cruelty and People Doing Bad Things, those scenes will be in service of the story and not merely as gratuitous filler for increased views and sales. And, spoiler alert, those people will probably receive karmic justice by the end of the story.
There are many artists and writers who believe that there is nothing which is out of bounds, and while I do not state my position as a Rule Which Should Be Followed By All, the things I won’t write tend to also be things I won’t read. Write what you want. I ain’t the boss a’ you.
I will not turn this post into a detailed examination of “punching down” as it relates to dominant social structures here in the United States, though I think such a post would be useful for teasing apart the multiple threads of of privilege and power which permeate every facet of modern life. Perhaps I will write it to pad my word count during NaNoWriMo next month.
In closing, note the tagline for this blog.
The Insecure Writer’s Support Group
is a community dedicated to encouraging
and supporting insecure writers
in all phases of their careers.