Today, [author’s note: I wrote this on Sunday] someone told me what to write. My response to that is writing about people who try to tell me what to write.
I think many people (writers) can relate to this whole problem of being told what to write, whether in the form of “suggestions” (deliberately in quotes), friendly commissions, unfriendly commissions and just…ungrateful abuse. In my opinion, many of these people (the ones who intentionally or unintentionally tell others what to write) do not understand the whole concept of being a lyrical artist. Generally, artists tend to be misunderstood by people who aren’t artists. Because you see, there are people who are good at the things that they do, and they do it for people. They’re talented people who work with commissions, like billboard designers, logo designers, advertisement creators and whatever. Then, on the other side of the artistic scale, there are the artists who are good at what they do, but create authentic pieces for themselves, from their own emotions. I shouldn’t have to explain it.
You know how I blog, right? Nobody (should) comes to tell me, “Today, I want you to write about how the world is a machine,” or “This time, could you write a satirical piece about other people’s poetry?” It’s something personal, that comes from within me. So is basically the rest of what I write.
I have many, many problems with being told what to write, whether it is well-meaning or not. Incidentally, it is the people who are genuinely ignorant about what they are doing that makes my blood boil. You know who I’m talking about? The ones who think they’re always right and that any advice they give is golden. The ones who say everything in a matter-of-fact tone and are pissed off and shocked when anyone dares oppose them. Those kinds of people. Sigh. Even thinking about it is making me angry.
In this world, there are many things people can, and perhaps should write about. (Better yet, there are many things people should be doing.) There are many problems that need solving, and there are many causes that need people to fight for them. My problem is not the membership; the number of people who actually make themselves a part of these things. My problem is the pureness of the heart.
Let me use myself as an example. I know, for instance, that breast cancer is a thing. It’s not something I’d wish on anyone. It’s not something I’ve had, or anyone around me has had before. The thought of breast cancer does not inflame my heart with sadness and indignation, moving me to near tears. I recognize it as a problem that needs to be solved, and if the opportunity arose for me, perhaps I would help within my capable means. What I (should) could not do is to get up and write a passionate, heartfelt blog post about how nobody is paying attention to breast cancer and what a tragedy it is that women who aren’t given proper early treatment are walking round, suffering silently and whatnot. I risk being misinterpreted so let me say this again: it is a brilliant cause to fight for! Just not for me to pioneer, because truly, I do not have any personal attachment to it. It doesn’t mean I don’t care, doesn’t mean I won’t help. It just means that when I have the option of NOT sounding like a charlatan or a sycophant, I will always choose that option.
On the other hand, if you brought to me a problem like literacy, it’s a different story altogether. When you hear me talk about the right, ability and importance of reading and writing, you will hear the personal attachment in my voice. When you read me writing about it, you will feel the commitment and energy I put into an issue I so believe in. There will be a marked difference in what I, or anyone writes, when it comes straight from the heart. Emphasis on straight from the heart.
My heart is the source of my writing. I am not so much an intellectual being as much as I am an emotional being. And this whole idea of writing what other people (who probably don’t even read you) tell you what to write seems to me to be one of the root causes of any type of fake-ness. Why then, do people
- Keep telling other people what to write, and
- Keep tolerating people who tell them what to write?
In all this, again, I risk being misinterpreted, so here’s another clarification. I am not talking about suggestions. I am talking about commands. Imposing ones. For instance, if I was engaged in passionate conversation with a close friend, and I was speaking vehemently about a topic and he suggested, “Maybe you should write about it,” that would probably be fine. Constructive advice. I can take it or leave it. But if, in conversation, someone else was speaking in the afore-described matter-of-fact manner about a topic, and ended by saying, “These are the things that you should be writing about. Stuff that will actually make a change!” …Commence blood boiling.
Yes, these are the actual words said to me. Not the first time they are coming from this person. If we were a story and I were the protagonist, he would be the primary antagonist. But I’m getting too personal. The point is that such statements are inferred insults to a craft I already practice. They insinuate that all I currently write is irrelevant, and not the kind of stuff I “should” be writing. What absolute BS!
If people so very much want stuff they faux-care about written down, they should grab a pen, and bloody write it themselves!