Giving Pause: The Drying Up of Creative Juices in the Internet Age

In this time of mandatory early-January new-year introspection, I'm forced to realize that I kind of did a crap job blogging last year.

I looked back at some of my entries during my more prolific time, i.e., the golden years of 2010 - 2012, and some of the stuff I wrote about back then I would never have the lady balls to write about again now.  Not even necessarily because I disagree with what I wrote though sometimes that's true, too but because weathering the fallout of internet comments and attacks and silent judgment seems unnecessary and exhausting.  I don't get paid for this; I don't need to incite internet warfare over my uncompensated opinions.

But it's also a sign of my thinning skin, my mounting real-life tendency to second-guess. The annoyed among you might call this the first baby steps of finally learning to think before I speak, which, admittedly, is an overdue lesson. But the creative side of me that loved blogging and opining and defending my viewpoints feels dry and sad and confused about it. And I started to wonder what happened.

This morning I read Karina Longworth's Slate article "Watch Everything You Say." While purporting to be a simple book review, it implicated Nicki Minaj's Rolling Stone interview in which Ms. Minaj laid down the following truth: "you gotta watch everything you say—people find an issue with every fucking thing." Longworth agreed, writing: 
It’s become incredibly difficult for anyone, public figure or not, to speak their truth without pre-calculating how much shit they’re willing to take for it, and calibrating their message accordingly...
Maybe everyone is crippled by their awareness that 'people find an issue with every fucking thing,' and probably a lot of people who express themselves for a living are withholding or mutating what they really think and feel because of that.
These thoughts really hit home for me, a blocked would-be writer who's been hemming and hawing and self-censoring and erasing and leaving dozens of thought-kernels unexplored and unpublished over the last year.  There is this sense of being crippled by over-considering your audience; there's cowardice in trying to please everyone. But there's also asshole-dom in spouting strong opinions whose nuances and counterpoints you ignore.

In some ways, the chilling effect created by cultural sensitivities isn't entirely bad, is it? Perhaps it causes people to evaluate their arguments more carefully before making them; perhaps it can encourage us to take pause, to acknowledge contradictions, to consider the burdens of privilege and our biases, and make more thoughtful, considered, respectful statements and judgments. But it can also just beget silence.

What I mean is, I'm glad that I'm a member of a generation of discerning readers who refuse to accept tropes and insensitivities and who are determined to explode preconceptions and intolerances. But, I'm having a really hard time being a writer in one. 

It's coincidental that there has been a national conversation in the last few weeks about censorship.  I'm proud that we as a nation, and indeed as a free-thinking world, have decided strenuously that "censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance." We've demanded the release of The Interview; we've denounced the horrible crimes at Charlie Hebdo. It seems basic and obvious that free speech even asshole speech is the cornerstone of a free democracy.

So I'm going to try to do a better job of making bolder choices this year. Or at least making some choices this year. I want this blog to be a place that's fun and humorous, but on the rare occasion when I am both opinionated and slightly qualified, I also want to tackle some real shit. Bear with me, and read with me, and point out my mistakes and my oversights. Tell me where I got it wrong or where someone else might've thought about it differently; I like the dialogue and I want your thoughts and feedback.

We are all so oversaturated with information that sometimes it feels useless to add to the murmur of conversation. Sometimes it feels really unfair to craft and strain and work and expose yourself when people can so effortlessly tear you down with a comment button. But it's worth it, this thing we've created, this speech. It's worth it to me, and I hope it's worth it to you to keep reading.

Even you, asshole commenters.

Here's to 2015, loves.
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January 9, 2015 at 4:41 PM delete

Okay, okay, you have shamed me. I'll stop correcting your spelling and grammar.

January 10, 2015 at 2:16 PM delete

Did you see the cover of that Rolling Stone issue? The Photoshopping of Madame Minaj's breasts alone tempts a skirmish with 400 years of science... and basic tenets of source lighting... but I digress, and unfairly hijack your otherwise relevant use of pop culture's crude recognition of a plight that cripples even these words as they are presently being written. In my anonymously humble opinion, you have one of the better tones out there in terms of avoiding pedantic enthusiasm, or insistance. I look forward to future blog posts on real shit. Speaking of which, in your recent Taylor swift article you give a nod towards a recognition of white privilege, and it made me curious as to what experiences may have had a role in spawning that recognition. Additionally, I wonder what effect, if any, this recognition has had upon your views towards Raynd-esque economic philosophy. But back towards this post, I think that your writing has been a good example of a well calculated effort against the temptations of off-the-cuff pontification on the one hand, and a brave forage against the crippling effect of tangential infinite regression on the other. Of course, your writing can't show how many times that bravery has been pulled into the void of an internal negative feedback loop, but what does escape I can say I enjoy reading. I was sort of hoping you would do a bit on the Hobby Lobby decision when it was all abuzz.


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