May 30, 2015

Human by Susan Barclay

Censorship is a very important topic among librarians and the organizations that exist to educate and support them. It's an important subject in the day and age in which we live, a time when people are killed for exercising the freedom of expression (Charlie Hebdo, anyone?). 

The reality is, though, that everyone censors to one degree or another. We all decide what we're going to share and how much we're going to bare. It's called self-censoring. Even the most enlightened librarian in a position of acquiring new library materials will practice some form of bias. Certain items will get ordered, others not. Of course there is a limitation of funds, but still. And writers also self-censor. We pick and choose which personal thoughts, feelings and experiences we write about. We tell some things and not others. Whether this is to protect ourselves or our readers depends on what we are writing about and who we think our readers are.

We all have a tendency to put our best foot forward. We want others to view us favourably, to think well of us. So we write ourselves the way we want to be seen, and rationalize our thoughts, actions and decisions to create the most positive spin. Don't you agree?

Having said all of this, what type of person do we most admire or want to befriend? I think it's the person who is authentic and transparent, the one who is willing to be real. This doesn't mean she has to share her story on national television or draw worldwide attention to herself. It means she has to be willing to self-reveal in private conversations with people she cares about or is interested in, who will hopefully treat her authenticity with the respect it is due.

What does this mean for writers? Should we withhold the "breathings" of our heart and share them only with certain people in oral settings? Should we fill our pages with these breathings and send them into the world where anyone may regard them and treat them how they wish? Self-censor and rationalize or be authentic and transparent? 

Quite honestly, I find it hard to say. I think it depends on the person and the story she has to share. I think it depends on how willing she is to accept any response and on how valuable her thoughts/feelings/experiences/knowledge may be to someone else who may be thinking/feeling/experiencing the same thing or its polar opposite. 

I have shared personal stories online and in print. I have revealed parts of my self. I have tried to be authentic and transparent. I've no doubt also omitted details that may be too personal or that would have painted me in a less than rosy hue. What can I say?

I am human.
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For more of my writing, please visit www.susan-barclay.ca 


15 comments:

  1. Great post Susan! I would say that authenticity, for the most part, is the way to go. But there certainly needs to be some censoring in order to keep the thoughts relevant to the written piece, and to prevent the writing from trailing off into a rant. This post certainly makes me think, as we don't want to become so censored that our writing isn't revealing the truth.

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    1. Very good points, Melanie. If you read my last post at Notes from Innisfree, I think you will find them fairly uncensored :)

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  2. We definitely need to use discretion

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    1. Discretion is a good word, Tracy :)

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  3. Hi Susan. This topic fills my days right now. How much do I want to share and how much is best to share. I don't even have the answers for myself right now let alone others. You are right...we are human and we are at times sharing our most intimate thoughts and feelings with those who are also human. In the end in my own life I realize it will really come down to the nudging of the Holy Spirit as He is the only one who can then help me deal with any negative remarks or judgments that may hurt.

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    1. Yes, I think it is up to each person as to what and how much to share. Listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit is important.

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  4. Very good points to ponder! Our writings will also be read by those closest to us possibly. So often I need to reign in my sharing and ask myself if my exposure will cause harm at this time to those I love.

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    1. Exactly. We don't want to needlessly hurt the people we love.

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  5. As a writer of memoir, 'Do no harm' comes first. How can we write with love if we reveal what is private about another? For me, two verses guide me.
    Phil 2:7: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.
    ...If I let go of my reputation, I find I can share more freely.
    Prov 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it
    ... God means for us to be protected. There's a balance.
    And there's a time to share, and a time to wait to share. (My variation on Solomon's theme). Distance from an event makes it safer. I think that's okay, too.

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    1. Yes to all of the above, Bobbi, and thanks for sharing the verses. You can never go wrong when you are led by God's word.

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  6. Great post! So much to ponder. "I've no doubt also omitted details that may be too personal..." I understand that all too well. There's a part of me that says "people don't need to know every little detail."

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    1. No they don't, and in a world of Reality Television, I find people are tempted to share way more than is necessary to get the point across.

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  7. Thanks for your wise thoughts on censorship from a personal and a librarian's point of view. I enjoyed reading this post as well as reading your interview on you website and a few posts on your own blog.

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    1. Thanks, Sharon. I appreciate you taking the time to visit my personal blog as well!

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  8. This is a tough issue, I agree. I think if we keep grace and kindness at the forefront, we are able to express ourselves honestly and engage readers of all points of view. Thanks for an interesting post Susan.

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