Discussing our craft feels small and unimportant at the moment. Protests over the deaths of George Floyd and so many others have been taking place all over the country for more than a week. They are even now erupting in Paris. But your writing can help and be significant, if you write the truth and don’t succumb to the fear of politicization.
Writing the narrative truth
I hope you have strong opinions about what is happening at the moment, what has been happening for far too long. I hope you are expressing those views. But even if you are not, it is unavoidable that our deeply-held beliefs will shine through our work. The narrative truth—whether or not criminals are punished, good deeds have unintended consequences, or innocents are butchered in the street, for instance—reveals the way in which we view the world.
Once upon a time, I mistakenly thought that our social evolution was linear. That people in the past were less educated than they are now, that we would be more educated in the future. Understanding would go hand in hand with this education (of factual, scientific knowledge). Meanwhile, war and injustice would diminish at the same rate until the former was relegated entirely to history books.
I’ve been disabused.
They are everywhere. Those who fight to maintain injustice and impose ignorance because it benefits them. They may not know that’s what they’re doing, but they are still part of the forces of degradation actively trying their hardest to stop our evolution into an accepting, responsible, and flourishing society where there would be no place for an elite that owes its superior status to privilege.
Silence will not help us. Good people do not win in the end. All they can do is check abuse and injustice at every turn.
Politics in your work
Have you ever been afraid your work was too political? Don’t be. Don’t silence your views about acceptance, equality, and diversity for fear they’ll offend, because by doing so we are normalizing hate and oppression. Hate and intolerance should never be passed off as “opinions” everyone is free to have and express. We should always say it’s not OK.
The old guideline of “don’t beat the reader over the head with it” still applies. In works of fiction, we don’t want to feel like the writer is preaching through their characters. But don’t depoliticize your text for fear of reviewers leaving nasty comments about your leftist agenda and PC sensibilities. Be proud when they do and never cater to them.
Write true to yourself. Write the truth of your world. And if the truth of our world leaves you heartsick and disgusted, be sure to write that most of all.