No, I’m not talking about that unique style of writing that differentiates your work from other authors. Not that voice. Let’s clear that misconception up before it even appears. I’m talking about speaking up.
When do we choose to bite our tongues to avoid alienating our readers?
When do we choose to voice polarizing thoughts?
I’ve seen varying opinions on this. Some of my favorite authors maintain the stance that they will only discuss their writing, and avoid controversial topics that might turn off some readers. Other authors – again, including some of my favorites – have decided to use their platform to express solidarity or dissent with a particular topic.
Who is right?
My answer: Both.
Voice as a Platform
One of my high school teachers used to say, “What’s the point of being able to talk to people if you’re not going to say anything of value?”
(Note: This phrase was often uttered after walking into the classroom to find me regaling other students with tales of the mildly disturbing sort. Still. The point holds.)
If there is an issue affecting society – whether it directly affects us as writers, our readers, or nameless souls we might never meet – and we have the capability to draw attention and help, shouldn’t we? It’s no different then observing a fire on the street and calling the fire department. You wouldn’t walk by and shrug, would you? You wouldn’t say, “Oh, someone else will call.” Right?
If you can use your voice to do good, use it.
Voice as a Brand
On the other side, our writing is our brand. It is our own one person business. We wake up, put on three to four different hats and get to work. Can you truly get upset at someone for choosing not to damage their brand? I can’t. Many of us have families and responsibilities. Some rely on writing as their sole source of income, while others are trying to sneak a foot in the door. You may wish they’d take a stand, but in the end it’s their choice.
Look. No one can tell you what flag to carry, which hill to make your stand on, or what issue to champion. That’s up to you. And whether you do so publicly or anonymously, again, that’s up to you.
Just make sure you’re honest with yourself about it.