Tuesday, March 03, 2015

The Incontrovertability of the Written Word

When I was thirteen years old, I walked into my bedroom to find my 23 year old sister reading my diary.  When I asked her what the heck she thought she was doing, she looked up at me.

"Oh, it's alright," she said with a dismissive wave of her hand, and went right back to reading.

That was the moment I stopped keeping a journal, and a defining moment in my decision to be a writer. Heck, if I'm going to write stuff down, it might as well be intended for people to read.

Then along comes Facebook.  Everything you write there is intended for people to read. Facebook comes with a caveat, however, that people are open to comment right back at what you've said - thus turning a discourse into a discussion.

This week has been a hard one for me, personally, and partially because of something I wrote on Facebook.  These are lessons that I've learned, or at least been vehemently reminded of, this week.

Lesson #1 - Never assume that your security is tight enough. No matter what you write there, once you hit that "post" button, just plan on it being seen by everyone else on earth, or at least the one person you didn't want to see it. No matter where you hide your journal, your snoopy sister will find it.

Lesson #2: Be strong and not careless with your words. Choose them carefully whether you are speaking, typing or writing long hand. This does not apply to rough drafts, but what you intend to put before the world has got to be blemishless to stand up to the beating it's going to take once it hit's the streets. Will they stand up to the abuse that will surely come, and can they do so graciously? Once they're out there, they're not changeable and they cannot be called back any more than a spoken word can. Someone, somewhere, still has a pre-1976 copy of Mormon Doctrine on a bookshelf as proof of this.

Lesson #3:  Know your business. If you're putting something out there as fact, or even fiction to be believed, be sure it is something you can stand behind.  If you're not sure, take the time to find out. Homework did not end at high school graduation. Grown ups call it 'research'.

Lesson #4: Guard your good name, and the name of Whom you represent. This is a pet peeve of mine. Yesterday someone posted a video of a performer that I once thought highly of, and I couldn't even bring myself to watch it. Why? Because he sold his name and face to a liquor company, and in so doing fell from my respect forever. He's not the only one - there are several who tout their beliefs as a selling point, and then have not lived up to those beliefs. Live up to who you say you are!

There's no harm in imperfection at the start, especially when one is talking about rough drafts. The sandpaper and polish must come between rough draft and final product. What you send out simply must be the best you have to offer, not simply for your readers, but for your own sake above all else. You never know when it might try to come back and bite you, so you had better be prepared to stand behind what you've published, whether it goes to the world by contract or post.

Write your worst, but publish your best!